April 17, 2014
I was never really convinced about the value of 3-D glasses until I went to see the movie Avatar. It’s then that I really experienced its full impact. Sure you could watch the film without the glasses, but how much richer with them on!
In a similar way it is helpful to wear spiritual 3-D glasses while celebrating Holy Thursday’s Mass of the Lord’s Supper. Of course you don’t have to. You could just watch the events unfold like a simple story of things that happened long ago in a far distant land. You could just feel sad and embarrassed for the disciples who don’t really get what Jesus is up to. You could, like the disciples, sit in awe at Jesus’ humility. You could also remember what Jesus did at the altar when he took bread and wine and blessed it and gave it to his friends. It’s a beautiful and moving scene from the past like an old painting we dust off and put up on the wall, a picture of the Last Supper we look at during these Holy Days.
But if you put on the spiritual 3-D glasses the same story, the same events explode with richness beyond a mere retelling of an ancient story. Suddenly you can see the added dimension of Holy Thursday. These events we recall are all about the Cross of Christ. Holy Thursday is the key to understanding the Cross, and Easter Sunday is the fulfillment of what happens on the Cross. It’s with the 3-D glasses that you can see that the washing of the feet and the breaking of bread at the altar are all about what happens on the Cross. Good Friday is about Jesus pouring his life out in love like the water pours out of the basin to wash our feet. When Jesus shows us the bread and says “This is my body” (actually more like “this is all of who I am” in the original language”) we understand that on the Cross he is giving us all that he’s got. He’s breaking open his life like the bread is broken to feed his disciples. On the Cross his body is broken to feed us in love.
The most amazing part of watching Avatar with 3-D glasses was not just the richness and depth of what happened on the movie screen. What really got my attention was when the characters and objects jumped off the screen and entered into MY space! I felt like they were part of my own experience… up close and personal. In a similar way with our spiritual 3-D glasses we can see the 3rd dimension of the Holy Thursday experience… it leaves the sphere of a nostalgic re-telling of an old story and enters into our lives here and now. When Jesus says “do this in memory of me” he does not mean “remembering” in the traditional sense but rather to make present again in this day and age. The washing of the feet is no longer something “He” did for “them” back then but an act of love He does for “me” right now and which I am commanded to imitate in service of my brothers and sisters. He instructs me about what it means to be a leader in my own life; a humble servant. His giving of himself is present today in the Eucharist and in the Body of Christ I encounter around me in the pews and on the street.
Seen in its full dimension, Holy Thursday is a retelling of an ancient story that helps us uncover the meaning of Good Friday. It enters our world today as Jesus’ conditional loving presence in the Eucharist and in his command to humbly serve our sisters and brothers.