Last week a woman named Lillian called me with a request that is becoming common lately.
“Father,” she said, “I’m 90 years and I have been afraid to come to church. Would it be ok if I made an appointment with you to meet so that I can receive Holy Communion?”
“Of course, Lillian!’ I said. And we made an appointment to meet at 9 am this past Tuesday morning. An appointment for which she was 30 minutes early! That was how excited she was. Not only to set foot into the church again after a whole year but most especially to receive Holy Communion.
Her daughter drove her to church and she helped her mom walk into the church. They both sat down and I went to the tabernacle to get the Blessed Sacrament. The three of us prayed the Lord’s prayer together before I raised the host and said, “Behold the Lamb of God! Behold him who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are those called to the supper of the lamb!’
I gave them both Holy Communion and Lillian’s eyes began to well up with tears.
“It’s been over a year since I’ve received Holy Communion!” she said.
There has been a fear among the leaders of our church and pastors like myself that since our churches have been mostly empty the past year people would have forgotten about the power of the Eucharist and it’s meaning for us as disciples of Jesus.
I hope Lillian’s story and the joy that she experienced after receiving Christ for the first time after a year of being away from mass will repeat itself a million times over as things slowly get back to normal as we emerge from this pandemic.
Tonight, as we celebrate our Lord’s institution of the Eucharist we can pray for that. We can pray that after year being away from this special meal that is Jesus himself we will never take it for granted again.
But we must also never forget that on this night almost 2,000 years ago when Jesus gave us the Eucharist he also gave all of us who receive Holy Communion a job to do. He himself showed us how to do that job. He tied a towel around his waist, fell to his knees and washed the feet of his disciples.
In that simply yet profound act of humility he showed us that Holy Communion is not just any meal. It is a meal that comes with only one string attached. When we receive Holy Communion we are saying to Jesus and the rest of the world that I am willing to fall on my knees to wash the feet of others like Jesus did for those disciples and for me.
Of course washing the feet of others is a metaphor for serving in the name of Jesus. There are so many ways of washing another person’s feet: Clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, welcoming the stranger, visiting the imprisoned. Jesus even says in Matthew’s gospel that when we do these acts of charity and compassion we are literally doing them to Him!
You parents and grandparents – you don’t have to go very far to do these things. They’re already built into your jobs.
But as we all know this work can be hard and tiresome. It can be messy. Just like washing dirty, smelly feet.
Maybe that’s why Jesus put the two (Eucharist and service) together.
Just like our physical bodies need nourishment to survive and to work our souls need nourishment too! Our souls need to be fed with the Body of Christ so that we can Be Christ’s body (his eyes, his heart and his hands) so that we can drop to our knees to wash another’s feet whenever we are called upon!
What a privilege it is to be blessed and called to the supper of the Lord! It is also a privilege to be blessed to be called to wash feet!
On this night (especially for those us who have been away from church the past year) that should move us all to tears of joy!