Friday, March 25, 2016

Holy Thursday: Sharing Life

 Tonight we begin the Paschal Triduum, the great big liturgy that really begins tonight and only ends on the evening of Easter Sunday.  In it, we remember the greatest mysteries of our Christian faith.  And each liturgy is filled with rich symbolism and ritual that helps us enter into the mystery of Christ's suffering, death and resurrection.

We begin, of course, with the Mass of the Lord's Supper.  We remember when Christ gave us his body and blood.  We recall (and re-enact) Jesus washing the feet of his disciples as an act of humble service.  And then we "travel" with Jesus to Gethsemane where he asks us to watch and pray with him.  We are invited to spend time in the quiet church with the Lord, watching and praying.  This is one of my favorite parts.  Maybe it's because I like the dimmed lights and the last remnants of incense that still linger in the air.  Maybe it's because the liturgy gives me so much to ponder and contemplate.  Maybe it's because I just really need some more quiet in my life, and I let myself find it tonight.

Whatever the reason, that's what I did tonight.  I sat in the quiet of the church, watching and praying.  As I was doing this, a group of women came in together to do just the same.  In many places, it is a tradition to travel around to different churches and pray at their altar of repose.  I was first introduced to this when I was in Rome, and as I sat in the church tonight, my thoughts turned to two years ago.

Two years ago, myself and two Marianist seminarians decided to partake in the practice.  After going to mass at our parish, we began walking through our neighborhood, visiting several churches, stopping to say a few prayers at each one.  While the walking and the praying were good, what I remember most is just the fellowship we shared.  As we made our way from church to church, we talked, we laughed, and knowing us we probably yelled a little too (venting frustrations and disappointments.)  And I'm pretty sure we ended up going to the Roman equivalent of a dive - where the pizza was greasy (but oh so good) and the beer was cheap (and actually cold.)  But in doing all of this, we just shared life with each other.

And as I sat in the church tonight and recalled that evening two years ago, I realized that maybe this is one of the messages that Jesus tried to leave us at that last supper he shared with his friends.  At the Eucharist, we gather together around the altar, and we hear Jesus say, "This is my body and blood given to you."  It's as if he's saying, "Look, I am giving myself to you, I am sharing myself with you tonight."  In the Eucharist Jesus shares his life with us.  And then he tells us to do the same.  "Do this in memory of me."  It's as if Jesus is telling us, "Share your life with each other, just as I have done for you."  In the Eucharist we are called to share a apart of ourselves with each other. 

What I experienced two years ago with friends as we traveled on a Holy Thursday night, helped me glimpse what Eucharist is about.  Just as Jesus shares his life with us, we are called to share our lives with others.  We are called to walk with each other and just share life - maybe it involves laughing and talking, maybe even pizza and beer.  Maybe it just means that we understand that we are brothers and sisters, and we treat each other that way, or that we stoop and wash another's foot.  (As we look around the world today, it seems that we could use a little bit more of this, right?)  However we do it, though, we are invited to the table of life, and then we are invited to share this life, our life, with each other.  This is what it means to be Eucharist.

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