Maundy Thursday–Year C
24 March 2016
“Filipinos are addicted to Mass.”
I heard this observation from a missionary priest who has been working in the Philippines for over two decades now. Initially, I wanted to challenge his proposition. After all, a survey conducted by SWS three years ago tells us that only 37 % of Filipino Catholics go regularly for the Sunday Mass.
But before I could even register my objection, he came reeling off with points backing up his assertion. He continued, “For anything that happens in their country, there is a Mass If there is an approaching typhoon, there’s a Mass. To stop it, there’s Mass. If it stops, there’s Mass. If it continues to wreak havoc, they’ll have Mass … There is Mass when they have break time in the office. There’s also Mass in the school.” He concluded this list with a judgment, which I think is not far fetched: “Filipino people have Eucharistic overdose!”
Today being Maundy Thursday, we immortalize the institution of the Holy Eucharist.
We continue to remember God amidst our busy schedule. We always find enough reasons to thank Him for His goodness despite the ubiquity of evil all around us. As I pound on my keyboard, I recall Fr. Tom, an Indian confrere, who remains to be abducted by forces, who love–excuse the paradox–hatred.
We could find a pre-figuration of the Holy Eucharist in our first reading (Exodus 12:1), when the Israelites were asked to remember the goodness of God in liberating them as a people. They will remember His deeds through the ritual meal, which they will celebrate as a festival to honor the Lord.
In our second reading (1 Cor 11:23-26), St. Paul urges us to look back to that episode in the life of Jesus when He Himself commanded His disciples that as they often eat His body and drink His blood, they proclaim His death up until He comes again (also, see Luke 22:19).
For over 2,000 years, we continue to live up to this command of Jesus. The Holy Eucharist has remained to occupy a special place in our way of remembering the Passion of Jesus, and the love of the Father. This has kept us united with various cultures and languages the world over. And this is one of the things I find impressive how more than 1 billion Catholics share oneness, if not absolute uniformity, in the celebration of the Eucharist. Whichever Catholic church you visit, the structure and the manner of celebration of the Eucharist is the same!
However, our Gospel today (John 13:1-15) calls for us to go beyond the uniformity of the means of worshiping God. For, as embodied in the essence of the Eucharist, we are commanded to love. Jesus washed the apostles’ feet, a menial task reserved only for the lowly slaves. For certain, in doing this act, He scandalized His apostles.
And all the more, when He instructed them to do as He did.
But this is the very mark that we truly belong to Christ–and that we have become a people “so addicted” to the Eucharist–If we truly love.