Thursday of the Lord's Supper: Christ Loved His Own To the End
For God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. -- John 3:16
The entire meaning of Lent, Holy Thursday, the Easter Triduum, can be summed up in this sentence from the gospel of John, "He loved his own in the world and he loved them to the end," since it speaks about the entire content of the life and mission of Jesus Christ; that is, to love his disciples and his brethren -- us, you, me, humanity -- to the very end.
There is another beautiful verse found in this gospel, in fact the first, filled with rich spiritual meaning: "Before the feast of Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to pass from this world to the Father. He loved his own in the world and he loved them to the end" (13:1).
The entire meaning of Lent, Holy Thursday, the Easter Triduum, can be summed up in the last sentence of that verse, "He loved his own in the world and he loved them to the end," since it speaks about the entire content of the life and mission of Jesus Christ; that is, to love his disciples and his brethren -- us, you, me, humanity -- to the very end.
Can we fully understand what this means? I would venture to say that no one can; not here, not at this moment in time. The full implication of what Christ has done for humankind is of such immensity and profoundness as to be far beyond the complete grasp of the human intellect. Consider for a moment: we are incapable of comprehending the entirety of creation and the farthest reaches of the cosmos; the human brain remains a mystery; we cannot fathom what another person's life is like who lives not far removed from us in a distant part of the world but right next door; we fail to understand the inner depths of even our own being. Who should be so bold as to say they fully understand what Christ has accomplished by the sacred mysteries of his life, death and resurrection?
The obvious question is, will we ever fully understand what our Savior has accomplished? Perhaps not. One the other hand, it is certain that the path to understanding is experience: it is human life lived; it is the gift of self; it is sacrifice for love. We must fully live it, this experience, this life God has given us, with real purpose and authenticity, with true sincerity and with meaning of lasting depth, moving from our point of beginning to the goal and destiny that lies ahead. But what kind of life is this to be? How is it lived? What is the key principle in this life?
The answer is found in Christ himself. "In reality it is only in the mystery of the Word made flesh that the mystery of man truly becomes clear" (Gaudium et Spes 22 § 1). Christ, as God-made-man, is the definitive answer to every pressing human question. The supreme, perfect model of humanity is Jesus the Christ; the pattern we are to emulate is the divine and human Jesus; who we are to become is "little christ's."
We must enter into the life of Christ, as fully and completely as is possible. That is not something accomplished from outside, looking in from a distance, as if mere observation or comfortable and calculated analyzation will suffice. It is something we must do for real, now, totally -- it is to be a first-hand and profoundly intimate experience. Such a sublime life is only made possible, of course, by our coming to the feet of Christ in humility and placing ourselves before his infinite mercy, perhaps with copious tears, overcome entirely with a singular thirst to be one with him. Then we will begin to see; then the foggy mists of uncertainty will give way to the brilliant, sublime light of clarity. God will kiss us with his divine secrets.
Christ has loved us to the very end. There is great spiritual profit to be found in meditating on those words. It is interesting, revealing, enriching. They might give the impression that Christ has loved us, and now that he has done that, it is over. But it is not over. It is not simply that Christ has loved; it is that he continually, constantly and permanently loves. Christ loves because He Is Love. Jesus heals, because he is the Love Who Heals. He gives himself to us because his love is infinite, and infinite love must by definition overflow all boundaries: it is uncontainable, limitless, fiery and burning and all-encompassing and transforming. No one touched by the love of Christ is ever the same. It changes you. Forever. The Last Supper, his gift of himself, the removal of his garments and the washing of his disciples' feet, loving to the end, it continues on because Jesus Christ transcends time and space.
It is astonishingly beautiful. Think of how Jesus loved us to the end in his gift of the Eucharist.
"At the Last Supper, on the night he was betrayed, our Savior instituted the Eucharistic sacrifice of his Body and Blood. This he did in order to perpetuate the sacrifice of the cross throughout the ages until he should come again, and so to entrust to his beloved Spouse, the Church, a memorial of his death and resurrection: a sacrament of love, a sign of unity, a bond of charity, a Paschal banquet in which Christ is consumed, the mind is filled with grace, and a pledge of future glory is given to us" (CCC 1323).
Each time we receive the Eucharist, Christ is loving us completely, to the end, by giving the gift of his glorified and resurrected body, the gift of his own divine, supernatural life to those he loves. The Eucharist is the gift of Life Itself, and thus is the life-blood dynamic of the Christian. The Eucharist does not merely nourish us physically, nor should we ever be under the false impression that it be only a symbolic representation of our oneness as members of the body of Christ, but rather it provides us with incomparable spiritual nourishment; with, in fact, a share in the life of the Risen Lord himself (see Jn 6:22-65).
There can be no greater gift. "Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends" (Jn 15:13). Jesus Christ laid down his life for his friends on the cross, shedding his blood for the redemption of humankind, in order to save us from spiritual death and bring the promise of new life to all. In doing so, Jesus Christ gave content to the Eucharist with his own death. The cost of the Eucharist was the brutal, horrifyingly cruel death of the Son of God. It will stand forever as the greatest act of love possible.
This Holy Thursday, when we rise up, walk forward and receive Holy Communion at the divine liturgy, we take part in the death of Christ and, ultimately, in the greatest reality of love ever possible. The Son of God became man, died for you and for me, and gave us his glorified body to consume as the source of everlasting life. It is not simply a pledge kindness, but the pledge of infinite, sacrificial love: Christ shares his very life with those he loves.
Knowing his hour had come and he was to return to the Father, Jesus washed the feet of his disciples during the course of a meal and "gave them the commandment of love. In order to leave them a pledge of this love, in order never to depart from his own and to make them sharers in his Passover, he instituted the Eucharist as the memorial of his death and Resurrection, . . ." (CCC 1337).
Above I stated that we cannot fully understand the gift of Christ. That statement was not meant to imply we can known nothing of what Jesus has given us by his sacrificial death; nor was it meant to suggest we should refrain from studying the meaning of our Savior's gift; nor is it meant to discourage us in any way. On the contrary, the fact that this mystery is so deep, so profound and magnificent, should urge us onward, to explore and seek and strive and thirst without end. However, fruitful exploration is not merely an intellectual undertaking; on the contrary, it is a life lived in love with Jesus Christ, in free and loving obedience to the will of the Father.
It is a life lived for the love of God. That way of life presupposes a dying to self. We must not want our way, but the way of Jesus Christ; we must not want our desires, but the will of God; we must not strive after our own way of doing things, our own ideas and ways of thinking, but immerse ourselves in the way of God. Capio Dies!: "Seize the day!"
We must, ultimately, find that Jesus' words have become the substance of our own heart: We thirst to love to the end.
Let us pray:
O God, who have called us to participate in this most sacred Supper, in which your Only Begotten Son, when about to hand himself over to death, entrusted to the Church a sacrifice new for all eternity, the banquet of his love, grant, we pray, that we may draw from so great a mystery, the fullness of charity and of life. (Collect, Thursday of the Lord's Supper, At the Evening Mass)
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
F. K. Bartels is a Catholic writer who knows the Catholic Church transmits the fullness of truth and offers the fullest means of salvation; therefore his Catholic Faith is one of the greatest gifts a man could ever receive. He is a contributing writer for Catholic Online. Visit him also at joyintruth.com
Copywriter 2015 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM
Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for May 2015
Universal: That, rejecting the culture of indifference, we may care for our neighbours who suffer, especially the sick and the poor.
Evangelization: That Mary's intercession may help Christians in secularized cultures be ready to proclaim Jesus.
Rate This Article
Leave a Comment
More Lent / Easter News
- Missing The Point of Easter
- The Power of the Resurrection in our Lives: Christ Is Risen; Indeed, He Is Risen!
- Easter: Through the Octave and Beyond!
- The Happy Priest on Easter: He Has Truly Risen, We Are Free From Fear
- Holy Saturday: 'Make Sure He's Dead'
- HOLY SATURDAY: The Whole Earth Keeps Silence
- Good Friday Reflection on the Logic of the Cross
- Good Friday: The Church Born From the Wounded Side of Christ Pauses at the Cross
- Reflection on the Nature of Sin for Good Friday
- Fr. Paul Schenck: Finding Living Faith on Catechetical Sunday
- The Movie Yellow: Incest as 'Normal' and Cassavates's Slides Into the World of Woes
- The Chicago School Teachers Strike Reveals the Need For School Choice
- The Sexual Barbarians and the Dissolution of Culture
- The Happy Priest Challenges Us to Ask: Who is Jesus to Me?
- Michael Coren on Canadian Public Schools: Teachers, leave those kids alone
- We Cannot Ignore Our Consciences: Cardinal Dolan On Religious Liberty
- In the Face of Danger, Successor of Peter Travels to Lebanon as a Messenger of Peace
- Reflections on the Dignity and Vocation of Women: Who or What?
More Easter / Lent
'So it is written that the Christ would suffer and on the third day rise from the dead' - Luke 24:46
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the Season of Lent. It is a season of penance, reflection, and fasting which prepares us for Christ's Resurrection on Easter Sunday, through which we attain redemption. continue reading
Palm Sunday, the Sunday before Easter, commemorates Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem, an event mentioned in all four canonical Gospels. (Mark 11:1.11, Matthew 21:1.11, Luke 19:28.44, and John 12:12.19) ... continue reading
On Palm Sunday, we celebrate the first joy of the season, as we celebrate Our Lord's triumphant entrance into Jerusalem where he was welcomed by crowds worshiping him and laying down palm leaves before him. It also marks the beginning of Holy Week... continue reading
HOLY THURSDAY is the most complex and profound of all religious observances. It celebrates his last supper with the disciples, a celebration of Passover ... continue reading
On Good Friday, each member of the Church tries to understand at what cost Christ has won our redemption. In the solemn ceremonies of Holy Week we unite ourselves to our Savior, and we contemplate our own death to sin in the Death of our Lord ... continue reading
Easter is the principal feast of the ecclesiastical year. Leo I (Sermo xlvii in Exodum) calls it the greatest feast (festum festorum), and says that Christmas is celebrated only in preparation for Easter. It is the centre of the greater part of the ecclesiastical year ... continue reading
For most people the easiest practice to consistently fulfill will be the traditional one, to abstain from meat on all Fridays of the year. During Lent abstinence from meat on Fridays is obligatory in the United States as elsewhere. Christ Himself said that His disciples would fast once He had departed (Lk. 5:35). continue reading
Everything answered from when does lent end, ashes, giving something up, stations of the cross and blessed palms. The key to understanding the meaning of Lent is simple: Baptism... continue reading
Stations of the Cross refers to the depiction of the final hours (or Passion) of Jesus, and the devotion commemorating the Passion. First Station: Jesus is condemned to death... pray the stations now
What did you give up for Lent?
From the humorous to the bizarre, people have had interesting Lenten experiences. Tell us about what you are going to give up for this Lenten Year.
What others gave up »
Alex Basile - Catholic Online, 4/10/2015
Author Alex Basile reflects of the true meaning of the Resurrection of Christ and how many Christians overlook the real joy of Easter. In the haziness of the first Easter morning, Mary Magdalene made ...Continue Reading
Fr. James Farfaglia - Catholic Online, 4/6/2015
With the resurrection of Jesus, the physical is exalted. When we truly believe in Jesus, we are resurrected in this life because we are freed from the fear and worry that are characteristic of ...Continue Reading
Randy Sly - Catholic Online, 4/6/2015
While Easter is a Solemnity and an Octave Feast, it is also a 50-day journey until Pentecost. We continue to remember his resurrection with special devotion. Saint Augustine shares this ...Continue Reading
F. K. Bartels - Catholic Online, 4/6/2015
There is great cause for belief in the Resurrection. One of the most wonderful tenets of Catholicism and the true Christian religion the Church transmits, is that the Resurrection is a historical ...Continue Reading
On Good Friday, the entire Church fixes her gaze on the Cross at Calvary. Each member of the Church tries to understand at what cost Christ has won our redemption.
In the symbol of the Cross we can see the magnitude of the human tragedy, the ravages of original sin, and the infinite love of God. Learn More
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the Season of Lent. It is a season of penance, reflection, and fasting which prepares us for Christ's Resurrection on Easter Sunday, through which we attain redemption.
The ashes are made from the blessed palms used in the Palm Sunday celebration of the previous year. The ashes are christened with Holy Water and are scented by exposure to incense. Learn More
Stations of the Cross refers to the depiction of the final hours (or Passion) of Jesus, and the devotion commemorating the Passion.
ACT OF CONTRITION. O my God, my Redeemer, behold me here at Thy feet. From the bottom of my heart... Pray the Stations
'Christ Himself said that His disciples would fast once He had departed' Lk. 5:35
Abstinence. The law of abstinence requires a Catholic 14 years of age until death to abstain from eating meat on Fridays in honor of the Passion of Jesus on Good Friday. Salt and freshwater species of fish, amphibians, reptiles and shellfish are permitted.
Fasting. The law of fasting requires a Catholic from the 18th Birthday (Canon 97) to the 59th Birthday (i.e. the beginning of the 60th year, a year which will be completed on the 60th birthday) to reduce the amount of food eaten from normal. The Church defines this as one meal a day, and two smaller meals which if added together would not exceed the main meal.
Learn More »