Dear Brothers and Sisters,
“For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus took bread on the night when He was betrayed…” (1 Cor. 11, 23)
do not need to be reminded of this text. You all know it by heart and have
often heard it with utmost respect and attention.
The night in which He was betrayed, captured and brought before a fake tribunal by people who wanted Him to die, Jesus, aware of what is to come, uses the time that remains to Him, the circumstances in which He finds himself, his approaching certain death, to perform an act of love so powerful that we, together with all Christians, remember and repeat it over and over again.
The night before his suffering and death. Breaking the bread and sharing the cup expresses the meaning of his death on the cross, yes, of his entire life. The gesture represents God Himself who loves this world in all its complexity.
It could have been a completely different night. Under the spell of fear and anger. Jesus and his disciples could have talked about the injustice of the Roman occupation, the cruelty that ravaged the country, the narrow-minded unbelief of the religious leaders. Jesus rightly could have blamed his disciples’ lukewarmness, their incomprehension, their slowness and their cowardice. There was so much reason to complain and to be angry that last evening. Deception may have been a topic in their conversation too, but it is not what we received. It is not what changed bread and wine. It is not that which has the power to change us.
In the circumstances of the night before He was betrayed, Jesus transforms the customs and rituals that are available into an act of love that shows God’s goodness and loving presence in the world.
Breaking and sharing the bread, sharing the wine in the cup are simple and even small gestures. Their meaning is exceptional and weighty. Against the background of undeserved death and in a time of injustice and menace, Jesus shows God’s love, the goodness of his Father. In bread and wine He offers himself to his Father and to us.
The simple gesture is a sacrament because it is the sign of the deep reality of God’s unwavering love. Of his real Presence in our world and in our lives. Life itself, more powerful than death.
In our time too, we have reasons to complain. Times are grim, they inspire fear, the people around us are mediocre, even evil, and we ourselves are far from perfect. The deep sense of the Eucharist, this sign of love that so faithfully accompanies us throughout our life, lights up in our own lives when we, transformed by the Blessed Sacrament, become able to love and to speak words of goodness, in the situation in which we live and between the people who are with us. Simple deeds and unpretentious words probably. But Jesus shows their meaning. Thus, in Jesus’ Spirit, we let God’s goodness shine through. Thus the kingdom of God breaks through. That is how God is with us and in the world today.
When we celebrate the Eucharist, when we worship the Most Holy Sacrament, God’s ever-present goodness becomes actual for us.
In many places it will be impossible this year to celebrate the Holy Triduum in the usual way. This will cause uneasiness and grief in many communities and among those who usually join us in these celebrations. Let us prayerfully meditate on the fullness of God’s love that lives in the Risen Lord. He will show us how we can reach out to many. May the bread that is changed in the sign of God’s truly present love change us more and more deeply so that his likeness may appear in us.
Jos Wouters o.praem., abbot-general