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Fr. Laurence’s Lenten Reflections (Thursday Holy Week)
'I call you servants no longer. I call you friends because I have shared with you everything I have learned from my Father.'
The gift of himself in the ritual meal is essentially the same as the offering he makes of his death on the Cross. The context of the meal is communal and intimate, a family occasion. Only those who feel they are his disciples would want to share this meal – though he would hardly refuse any hungry person who happened to be there. On Calvary the same gift of self expands to global and even cosmic proportions. The Cross is a scaling up of the Last Supper but both are essentially and authentically personal. We don’t think of intimacy as happening on a cosmic scale but in this case we should try to imagine it. The full meaning depends on this gift of self being boundless and breaking all bonds.
His gift of friendship redefines the human experience of God very differently from that of worshippers of an absolute monarch or employees of a tycoon. If a powerful figure suddenly puts his arm round you and calls you his friend you might be flattered but suspicious that he’s just using you. But if the person who does so is at their lowest ebb of power and opens intimacy from this place of utter vulnerability, the choice to accept or evade is one that defines you as well as him.
This is a psychological approach to Holy Thursday. The mystical is deeper and truer. How can a ritual and the elements of a meal suddenly become the energy of spiritualized matter that nourishes the soul, feeds the love-longing of the heart and makes a community of strangers? No one has to prove this – except in the field of their own experience. The reality of the Eucharist sweeps away intellectual hair-splitting and legalistic regulation in the rush of gratitude that is released in those who simply share the bread and wine.