In Memory of Me

I’ve read about people who know they don’t have long to live and one fairly common element in many of their stories is that they want to make their last moments on earth very special. They want to spend time with loved ones and, perhaps more importantly, they want to pass on all of the lessons they have learned in their lives. As we look at the readings for the Easter Triduum – Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday – we see that, in many ways, Jesus did the same when it was time for him to die.

Holy Thursday

Reading I: Exodus 12:1-8, 11-14
Reading II: 1 Corinthians 11:23-26
Gospel: John 13:1-15

Holy Thursday is like “Thursdays with Jesus.” He is letting us know that if we can’t remember anything else he taught, then we need to remember the lessons of Holy Thursday. What are those lessons, you ask? Good question!

Immediately after the breaking of the bread during the last supper, Jesus got up, tied a towel around his waist and began to wash the apostles’ feet. He began to serve them. Some were a bit embarrassed, but Jesus told his disciples that he must do this for them and then they must do this for each other – we must serve each other.

The notion of service is a critical lesson Jesus is teaching us. It’s as if Jesus is telling us, “I have given you a model to follow. What I have done for you, you should also do.” Great Christians are people who see themselves as people who serve others.

The other important lesson for today is that the Holy Thursday Liturgy continues by recalling the Last Supper. Jesus takes the bread, blesses it, breaks it, and then shares it. Imagine what it must have been like to hear Jesus tell us to do this ritual. When he said “This is my body… this is my blood,” it changed everything. The apostles probably didn’t really know what Jesus was talking about, but they knew that they better remember it. Jesus concluded by saying, “Do this in memory of me,” and we continue doing it in memory of him to this day!

Good Friday

Reading I: Isaiah 52:13 – 53:12
Reading II: Hebrews 4:14 – 16; 5:7-9
Gospel: John 18:1 – 19:42

If Palm Sunday and Holy Thursday provide the storyline for our faith, and Easter Sunday is the “happy ending” of our faith story, then Good Friday must be the drama of our faith.

Here is the story of the suffering and death of Jesus. Within the story are all of the human feelings that we can understand very well. Jesus experienced rejection, pain, and loneliness. And even though we leave this service uneasy and sad, there is still an overall sense of victory.

The reason we leave the Good Friday service with a sense of hope is because we know about Easter. We have Easter to point to. We must put both of these experiences together. Good Friday and Easter are essentially connected. Without Easter, Good Friday is nothing more than a sad day. Without Good Friday, there is no death; therefore there is no possibility of a resurrection.

Easter Sunday

Reading I: Acts 10:34a, 37-43
Reading II: Colossians 3:1-4
Gospel: John 20:1-9

I remember one time when my phone rang and I answered it – and the person on the other end started talking like he knew me. Unfortunately, I didn’t recognize the person’s voice at all! I kept talking, trying not to let him know I didn’t recognize him – all the while trying to figure out just who this person was.

I was embarrassed that I couldn’t recognize him – until he finally said something that was a common experience of ours and I was able to finally figure out who it was.

The Gospel for Easter Sunday Afternoon is the story of the road to Emmaus. Jesus comes upon two people – two of his disciples – who are walking on the road and he joins them. They began to explain to him all that had happened in the city and all they knew about Jesus and how he died. They were emotional and confused.

They shared with this “stranger” how some women from their group had gone to Jesus’ tomb and an angel told them he was alive! They shared many things with Jesus – not knowing who he really was – explaining everything to him as if he were a visitor who knew nothing of what had just occurred.

The time went by, and they had almost reached the town of Emmaus. It was getting late, so they invited Jesus to stay with them a bit longer. While they were with him, he took the bread, blessed it, broke it and gave it to them. With that, their eyes were opened and they recognized him – but then he vanished. They remembered what he had said only three days before, during the last supper.

They reflected on how their hearts were burning as Jesus shared scripture with them, and then went to share their experience with the rest of the disciples… how they recognized him in the breaking of the bread.

So this Easter, we remember the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus. We share in this story of faith by listening to the stories of scripture on these mysteries, and we come face to face with the resurrected Jesus every time we receive Jesus in the breaking of the bread at the Sunday Eucharist.

Perhaps this was what Jesus meant when he said, on Holy Thursday, “Do this in memory of me.”

Life Applications:

How do you serve others?
How does the suffering and death of Jesus relate to your life?
During the Liturgy of the Eucharist each Sunday, do you truly remember what Jesus has done for us? Why or why not?

Original article by Deacon Jim Corder, 2003-2021.
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