Today is Holy Thursday, the day on which we commemorate the Last Supper – the Passover meal that Jesus shared with his friends on the night before he was crucified.
Tonight, many of us will attend the beginning of the Triduum liturgy: the Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper. During that Mass, two related things will happen. First, we will hear St. Paul’s account of the institution of the Eucharist. In his first letter to the Corinthians, he will pass on to the people of Corinth what he “received from that Lord,” that
the Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over, took bread, and, after he had given thanks, broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
But it is clear that “Do this in remembrance of me,” is not satisfied simply by listening to the priest recite these words each week during the Eucharistic Prayer, followed by our receipt of the Eucharist. During the Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper we will also listen and then participate in a reenactment of the scene in John’s Gospel where Jesus washes the feet of his disciples.
John’s Gospel contains no account of the institution of the Eucharist, as do the synoptic Gospels and Paul. Instead, Jesus washes his disciples’s feet, a menial act that would normally be performed by a slave. And, just as he says in the reading we hear from Paul, “Do this in memory of me,” he says here, “I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.” Jesus says, I am your servant; in my memory, be a servant to each other.
The command in John’s Gospel is a challenging one. It instructs us that “do this in memory of me” is not satisfied solely by our Eucharistic celebration at Mass, as important as that is. Rather, we are asked to follow Jesus’ model in how we live and interact with all of our brothers and sisters.