St Francis Q&A

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

"The vast tunnels of a gold mine"

As we prepare to enter into the Easter Triduum, the following is a deep and rich meditation for Holy Thursday (cf. Lk 22:14-20) from “The King, Crucified and Risen” by Fr. Benedict Groeschel, C.F.R.:

“The Sacred Triduum – the three holy days (Thursday, Friday, and Saturday) – opens with joy and sorrow, love and betrayal, life and death, the promise of eternity and a feeling of impending death at the Last Supper. This is the great day of paradox – that is, apparent contradictions mysteriously containing truth. For example, we call this Passover meal the Last Supper. But these simple events are the beginning of billions of commemorations in Eucharistic liturgies. Could anyone there have imagined Bach’s Mass in B minor, or a Mass performed by native Africans singing an accompaniment to the renewal of the Last Supper?

It’s a very sorrowful meal. Christ promises the Eucharist, which has been the greatest single source of spiritual joy and consolation that the Christian world has ever known. Christ leaves the supper to be arrested; within eighteen terrible hours He will be tortured to death, and yet He tells us that He will be with us till the end of the world. The most significant sign of His presence is the bread and wine consecrated and transformed at the re-presentation of this holy meal.

During the past several days we have been meditating on some of His discourse to the apostles in John’s Gospel. If you have been reading along, you realize that these pages, including John chapters 5 and 6 and chapters 13-17 (called the Book of Glory), contain the most profound revelation of who Jesus Christ is and what He can be to those who seek to love Him.

Try to take some time during the Holy Triduum to read and meditate on these events. Although they happened so long ago, they are repeated over and over till the end of the world.

Any thinking Christian knows that Christ is betrayed, abandoned, humiliated, and suffers hunger and thirst constantly in his members. ‘I was hungry and you gave me no food’ (Mt 25:42). He is constantly on trial somewhere in the world, and He is left alone in our own neighborhoods in the sick and the dying.

The events of Holy Thursday are almost all incomplete realities. They look forward to what is to come for their completion. The very next day the Blood of the Eucharist must be shed and the Body must be broken. But even then, what do we see but the corpse of an atrociously abused man, like the image seen on the Shroud of Turin? We must keep going so that the Eucharist is not a funeral procession and the life of Christ is not just another noble failure. He lives! On the third day He comes back to life, never to die again. ‘I am with you always, to the close of the age’ (Mt 28:20).

There is so much in the Last Supper, and then there is the agony in the garden and the arrest of Jesus. Start anywhere prayerfully and thoughtfully, and you will walk into the vast tunnels of a gold mine. The events of these days can teach us every year and, in fact, every day of every year, because they come back to us not only in our memories but also in the sacramental reality of the daily Eucharist.

Is there one word that can sum up Christ’s deeds and our response as disciples? Obviously the word is love. It begins the account of the Last Supper in John 13:1: ‘Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.’

The Gospel is above all a story of love, and love should be our response. St. Paul, who was called after all these things came to pass, summed it up so well in words that should guide our minds and hearts: ‘The charity of Christ urges us on’ (2 Cor 5:14).”


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