The Gift of Service: A Reflection for Holy Thursday

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By Sister Jeanne O’Rourke

“May we who eat be bread for others.
May we who drink pour out our love.”

These words from Bernadette Farrell’s hymn, “Bread for the World,” invoke us to reflect upon the meaning and importance of Holy Thursday. Jesus desires to eat his last meal with his loved ones: “I have longed to eat this Passover with you before I suffer…” Jesus came to this meal ready to pour out his love for these friends.

Incredulously, they watched him as he went about the menial task of washing their feet, a work performed only by the servant of the household. I don’t believe that they could absorb the meaning of this action, nor was it easy to accept the outpouring of love and example that Jesus offered. Jesus point blank asked them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? I have given you an example so that you may copy what I have done to you.” (John 13:13-15) In this text, Jesus commissioned us to serve.

As Sisters of Mercy, we vow “to copy what Jesus has done.” Personally, even as a small child I learned to serve, imitating what my parents did. Now, at Mercy High School in Omaha, Nebraska, I serve and welcome students in our tea room. Today, the Sisters of Mercy, associates, companions, as well as volunteers and partners in ministry, serve in over 30 countries. Each of us in this Mercy Community follows the example of Catherine McAuley and Jesus: “Do all you can for God and God’s people because time is short.”

Holy Thursday not only calls us to serve one another, but, most importantly, to bring our gift of service to the table of the Lord where we hear the words spoken by Jesus. It is here we receive the GIFT. Throughout Jesus’s life, he used words and actions to teach, to speak his love, and to express his compassion.

At this Eucharistic meal, theologian Father Ron Rolheiser says Jesus goes beyond words; he gives us Eucharist. We come together as a community of believers to celebrate and remember, to do what Jesus asks of us: “Do this in memory of me.” Eucharist helps us continue Incarnation today through you and me. Our merciful presence speaks without words, and God becomes alive. There are no adequate words to describe God’s love. Jesus touches us; we, in turn, touch one another.

“May we who eat be bread for others. May we who drink pour out our love.” Incarnation continues…