The Primacy of Service: Holy Thursday

Today we read from John’s account of the last evening that Jesus spent with his disciples before his Passion and death. The other evangelists take this opportunity to provide us with the Institution Narrative, or the words spoken by Christ that to this day are repeated by the priest during the Consecration at holy Mass.

John does not do this; rather, he uses the occasion of the Last Supper to depict Jesus washing the feet of his disciples and commanding them to do likewise. We don’t know why, but it’s possible that by the time the evangelist composed this gospel account the Breaking of the Bread had become an occasion for people to segregate into groups and eat and drink their fill, rather than to unite and commemorate the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of our Lord as one body.

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By showing Jesus washing the feet of his disciples, the evangelist re-emphasizes the primacy of service. Those who would be greatest must become the least. This is the humility and love behind the gift of his life poured out for our sake, by which he becomes one with us and we become one with each other.

As we approach the Eucharist this evening let us take his words and his actions to heart, for together they show that love leads naturally to service. Christ has shown us the greatest love through the gift of his Body and Blood broken and poured out for our sake and at the same time that this is the love that allows us to see others not as things to be used but as people to be served.

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