Fr. Nicholas Amato, a frequent presenter at our Center for many years, was scheduled to guide our annual Triduum retreat along with Fr. Michael Schleupner. We’re so disappointed to have to cancel, but glad that we can all be safe at home and read this poignant reflection by Fr. Nicholas today.
Today, Holy Thursday, begins the most solemn time of the year, called the Sacred Triduum. Before the pandemic we would have gathered around the altar of our local church and heard the familiar words, “He took the bread, blessed it, broke it and gave it to his disciples.” Four very important words that apply both to Jesus on the night before he dies and to us each day.
First, like the bread, we are “taken and blessed.” I remember when I was growing up in Brooklyn, New York, we would often organize our own baseball games on a field in the neighborhood. Each time we did this, two of us would be the “managers” of the two teams and we would take turns choosing players from among the others who were there. Well, it was a big deal to be taken or chosen first. It meant that you were a good player and it was a real ego-booster. Thank God, in the end, everyone was taken. No one was left out.
Well, the first thing we have to realize in the spiritual life is that God has taken and blessed each one of us and done so equally. God has spoken over us the same words that the Father speaks over Jesus at his baptism: “You are my beloved son. You are my beloved daughter.” In this, God has touched the very core of our being. In and through Jesus, God has made us valued and worthy, wanted and loved.
This is so important as a foundation for living in this time of a world health crisis. Value and worth, often defined by wealth or prestige, are now shifting to the most vulnerable or to those who need a verbal or FaceTime connection, or a bag of groceries delivered to their home. Jesus assures us that God has already taken and blessed each one of us, that no one is excluded from our care or concern. What a wonderful sense of self and what a strong foundation for living this can be for us today and fulfilling Jesus’ having taken and blessed us.
And then, Jesus at the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, breaks and gives the holy bread, but he gives to us as well. Here we need to understand the word “broken” a bit differently for Jesus has not really broken us. Instead, he wants us to realize that we are broken of ourselves. Each one of us is broken in at least some way. We are all broken because we are human. We are incomplete in our own humanity and are restless for the wholeness that only God can give. We may be broken because of something that has happened to us or because of a bad habit or a lost relationship. Or maybe because we feel guilty about something we have done or broken because of our physical limitations. So, aware of that brokenness, Jesus would have us give to others out of that very brokenness.
We learned as children to, “Offer it up” for the sake of others, such as loved ones, family and friends. Well, these dire times have us move more dramatically to a multitude of others. We’re being given to the world as it were, being given to draw all the vulnerable and those exposed to COVID-19 into our love and compassion, no matter who they are or where they’re from. We are given authentically because of our own brokenness and now we are given across all limits and borders of space and culture because the pandemic is a cause to unite us all.
Yes, it is Holy Thursday, Jesus’ last meal where he “took, blessed, broke, and gave” the bread to us. He gives us his own body and blood to nourish and strengthen us on our journey. And he also gives us this bread so that we, in turn, can be bread, a bread of life for one another, for like the bread, we are now willing to be “taken and blessed, broken and given.” One wonders if it had to take a pandemic to realize this!