My Dear Sisters and Brothers! This Mass of the Lord’s Supper opens the gate to the most beautiful soul which ever walked this planet: Jesus Christ. St John writing an account of that last meal wrote: ‘Jesus had always loved those who were his in the world, but now he showed how perfect his love was.’ Let us pay attention to what happened at the Last Supper as those events allow us to see what was going on in the soul of Jesus.
St Paul in the Letter to the Corinthians wrote about the Eucharist: ‘This is what I received from the Lord, and in turn passed on to you.’ Then he went on to write the earliest account of the Consecration of bread and wine. How familiar we are with that action, how much we love it, how often we participate in it.
The very old St John, who at the time of writing the Gospel had witnessed how the communities celebrated it, but who also witnessed some divisions and quarrels appearing already in those communities, in his unique way spoke about the Eucharist: ‘This is what I received from the Lord, and in turn passed on to you.’ Then he went on to write about the Lord of heaven and earth kneeling and washing the dust covered feet of his Disciples. Similar to the command of the Lord: ‘Do this as memorial of me’ when giving his Body and Blood, St John wrote that the Lord Jesus gave also another command: ‘You may copy what I have done to you’ when his stunned Disciples looked at their own feet just washed and wiped by the Messiah. Are we familiar with this gesture too? Do we love it too? Do we perform it often? We do when we outdo each other in being servants in the Church.
I treasure an event from the life of Bishop Douglas Warren from Wilcannia-Forbes diocese. One day he was asked to celebrate a funeral. However due to some miscommunication in the family a priest from interstate was also asked to do that. When the priest arrived to the small bush church he found a man wearing a simple alb and quietly organising things in the sacristy for the funeral. He never met the bishop so he took him for a sacristan or an acolyte helping in that isolated community. He said to the ‘sacristan’: ‘I see that you know the liturgy and this church well. You are going to be a great help for me during the Requiem Mass.’ ‘I would love too’ said the ‘sacristan’. What happened next was the bishop walking into the church and carrying the processional cross followed by the priest vested for the Mass. During the whole Mass the bishop served as an altar boy. When he was asked after why he didn’t explain to the visiting priest that he was the bishop of the diocese he answered: ‘He was so excited to preside over this special Mass that I couldn’t take it from him.’ That’s an example of copying what Jesus did at the Last Supper, being a servant, not looking for a way to glorify myself. It applies to all of us the clergy and lay people as well.
A few centuries after St John wrote his Gospel, St Augustine reinforced it in his own community of Hippo as he kept saying to the people at the time they were receiving Holy Communion: ‘Receive what you are.’ You are the Church, the Body of Christ; now receive the Body of Christ.
St John’s account of the Last Supper with Jesus washing his disciples’ feet exhibited not only Jesus’ affection for the Twelve but was also a gift to be perpetuated in the community of his followers until the end of time. Then our Church community becomes like that secret garden where the humanity can be healed and restored the way Colin Crave was in the Burnett’s book. It is because the Body of Christ sacrificed on the altar matches the Body of Christ in the pews as Christians sacrifice their ambitions to be humble servants of each other.
Do you know where the Risen Lord was first seen? It was in a garden. May you community here be such a garden where parishioners and visitors may encounter the Lord Jesus: on the altar and in the pews.