Like other Jewish meals, Jesus took the bread, said the blessing, broke it and gave it to his disciples. They already knew this ritual before. But tonight, something is different. He told them in a solemn voice: “This bread is my body, broken, given. Share it.”
Then, he took the cup, said the blessing as he used to do and drunk from the cup which is the sign for the rest to drink their own cup. He changed the ritual. He made them use one cup, his cup. “Gusto niyang tagayan sila. Sama-sama uminom sa iisang kopa.”
“This cup is the new covenant of my blood, shed for you and for all.”
This is how he wants to be remembered – someone committed to serve them: “Do this in remembrance of me.” The phrase “for you” sums up the whole of Jesus’ life—a life poured out for all, for the coming of God’s reign.
Curiously John’s gospel is silent about these liturgical words of institution. There is no such ritual in John. He narrated the washing of the feet instead. Expressed in a different ritual, the message, however, is the same: that we should wash each other’s feet as we pour out our lives for all. There is one quality we are looking for a leader: he or she should be a servant of all.
Two years ago in the midst of the pandemic, I composed these simple free verses for Holy Thursday. One that comes from the heart. I entitled it “And this is Eucharist, too.”
I would like to continue this reflection today — looking at this present time, and searching for spaces where hope in the Eucharist is found.
Bread and wine.
“Take this all of you and eat it.
This is my body which will be given up for you.”
“Take this all of you and drink from it.
This is the cup of my blood… Do this in memory of me.”
There were many happy meals before
But this one is different; mixed feelings and all
it is held in remembrance of God’s care;
He washed their feet and asked them to do the same;
They heard some parting words from a dear friend
and the call to love till the end.
This last meal—this last supper;
The Eucharist — as Christians called it later.
There is a woman—a single mom—who was asked to serve
even as she was still mourning for her husband’s death.
She rose up to the challenge and served well, very well.
Even as she was maligned from all sides—
Online and offline; invisible trolls and visible official power
She did not stop to place her life on the line,
in times of disasters and pandemic, in times of injustice and pain.
She could have rested after years of service
But now she rose to the challenge again.
She does not mind the vile accusations;
she places her life on the line once more
“Hindi para sa akin ito.
Para sa kinabukasan ng bayan at mga anak ninyo.”
And that selfless offering is the Eucharist, too!
There is a man—honest, decent, unassuming
He graduated from leading international schools
But he authored and passed laws for poor farmers
Long victimized by the cronies of the dictator.
In this campaign, he was often sidelined
Sometime, even asked not to attend
Because local politicians prefer another party’s candidate
It is crucial that his President wins, he thinks.
She must increase, I must decrease — an echo of the Baptist.
But in Pampanga, the farmers surprised him
They themselves came up the stage
And proudly endorsed him, for he has served them.
That humility is Eucharist, too!
There were thousands, maybe millions, of young people
Which adults usually blame as non-engaged and “walang paki”
All they have are their gadgets, their teachers complained.
But when a moral chord has been struck in their lives,
They throng to the streets; they paint, they dance, they sing
In support of a moral vote, in support of truth and justice
In their young lives, they know what is right and what is wrong
For this, they offered their overflowing creativity,
and inexhaustible generosity
That is Eucharist, too!
I have seen simple people, poor people, ordinary people
They were politically quiet at first, seemingly non-involved.
But now they are walking house to house,
patiently explaining person to person
Telling them to reject lies and uphold the truth,
To vote wisely and choose the leaders who really serve.
Unlike usual campaigns, they did not get anything for doing this,
Many contributed from their own pockets — “abonado pa.”
They climb the hills, cross fields and rivers
just to reach out to their neighbors.
In rallies, they fill up stadiums for hours, rain or shine
Just to fight for truth and the future of their children
That is Eucharist, too.
As we know, the Eucharist is not just bread and wine
It is also people willing to wash another’s feet.
It is also widows fighting for justice for their slain husbands
It is also the poor willing to serve another poor
So that all of us may have life, and have it to the full.
In that last supper, Jesus said:
“There is no greater love than they
who offer their lives for their friends.”
This is what the Eucharist means:
TO LOVE IN A RADICAL WAY.
For what Jesus said that night.
He proved in deed the day after.
On the cross on that far mountain
Without power, without fame
Without friends; without no one;
And that is Eucharist too!
Holy Thursday Reflection of Father Daniel Franklin Pilario, C.M., a theologian, professor, and pastor of an urban poor community in the outskirts of the Philippine capital. He is also Vincentian Chair for Social Justice at St. John’s University in New York.