Holy Thursday in the Year of Mercy
Our commemoration of the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday takes place this year in the context of the Jubilee Year of Mercy.
“Jesus Christ is the face of the Father’s mercy,” affirms Pope Francis, adding, “Jesus of Nazareth, by his words, his actions and his entire person reveals the mercy of God” (Misericordiae Vultus, 1). As we celebrate this evening Jesus’ institution of the Eucharist, we should contemplate that face of mercy present at the Last Supper and at every Mass.
As Pope Francis also said, “While he was instituting the Eucharist as an everlasting memorial of himself and his paschal sacrifice, he symbolically placed this supreme act of revelation in the light of his mercy. Within the very same context of mercy, Jesus entered upon his passion and death” (Id., 7).
The celebration of the Eucharist in every Mass is a living memorial that makes present the effects of Jesus’ dying and rising for us. With that same limitless love, Jesus washed the feet of his disciples, offering an example of how we should love and serve each other. The Lord says that if we are to be transformed in his death and Resurrection into new life, we must learn to see each other as brothers and sisters.
Jesus’ pledge on that holy night that he would remain with us until the end of time is lived out not just in the sacrament of the Eucharist, but in the works of love and service that reflect the very action of Christ himself. What brings us to the table of the Lord is our love of the Lord, and what brings us to our knees to wash the feet of others in service to them is the recognition that we must give of ourselves as Jesus gave to us, and thus love one another.
Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, soon to officially be a saint, said the vocation of her Missionaries of Charity is to see the face of Jesus in the poorest of the poor, and demonstrate their love of him by their service to those in need. We too are called to see in the poor the face of Jesus, the face of mercy who can transform hearts and change the world.
Over and over again, Pope Francis has shown us through his words and actions how to live out the Gospel message of Jesus, going out to encounter and accompany people where they are, bringing them Christ’s love and mercy. Our Holy Father has offered his own witness of love on Holy Thursday by washing the feet of prisoners and people with disabilities. That love without limits is Jesus’ legacy to his disciples today that they are called to share with those on the margins of society. Thus, the Pope has asked that we make the corporal and spiritual works of mercy part of the fabric of our lives so we can become missionaries of mercy in our communities.
As people of mercy, we are called to love like the father in Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son, who, like God our merciful Father, never gives up on someone and always forgives and welcomes them home. We experience that same mercy each time we partake of the sacrament of Confession. There is still time to receive this grace so that our souls might be made clean for our celebration of Easter.
When we see the face of Jesus in those in need and bring God’s love and mercy to them, they likewise encounter the face of mercy and of Jesus in us. Thus, like the Apostles who joined Jesus at the Last Supper, we who receive the Eucharist at Mass and experience this living memorial of our redemption can go forth and bring Christ to the world through acts of mercy, carried out with great love. In that way, at each Mass and in our loving service to others, we fulfill Jesus’ command, “Do this in memory of me.”