“JESUS KNEW THAT THE HOUR had come for him to pass over from this world to his Father.” So says the Gospel of the Mass of the Last Supper.  And he used that hour to show love.   We learn from the same Gospel that he has always loved his own in the world.  Yet, he used this hour to love them to the end.

To love to the end.  That is to show ultimate love.  To love to the end is to show perfection of love.  It is to show the greatest love.  Jesus used the last hour of his earthly life to show perfect love.  That is the simple message the Gospel teaches us every year at the Mass of the Last Supper.  What do I use the hours and days of my life to do?  What shall I be doing the last hour of my life?

“I have given you an example,” says Jesus, “so that you may copy what I have done to you.” I have given you an example so that you too may love to perfection.

Perfect love is selfless love.  Selfless love is when you love, not because of what you get in return, but because you are to love.  You love a person not because of what you get from him or her but because that person is God’s own creature, and God loves every creature he has made.  And, precisely because this is the way God loves, it is difficult for us human beings to love this way.  How can I ever love the way God loves?  God loves us even when we do not love God in return.  How can I ever love those who do not love me in return, those who return hatred for love?

Jesus shows us that service is the perfection of love.  Service is when you place yourself before others and in their hands.  Not just before them, but before them and in their hands.  For if you just place  yourself  before  others  and  not in  their  hands, then you have made yourself into  their  boss.  But if you place yourself before them and in their hands, then you are their servant.

But placing yourself in the hands of others who do not love you is quite risky.  You do not know what they will do to you when you are in their hands.  They may hurt you.  Yet, that was what Jesus did.  He placed himself before his disciples, and in their hands.  He placed himself before them and in their hands at the washing of feet, at the Last Supper: “Take and eat, this is my body…. Take and drink, this is my blood.” He placed himself before us human beings and in our hands on the cross.  And in the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, he continues to place himself before us and in our hands.  For when the priest says to us at communion: “The body of Christ,” it is Christ himself saying again: “This is my body.”

That is perfect love, and perfect love is risky.  Perfect love is wounded.  Perfect love is betrayed.  You place yourself in the hands of those who may not show love in return, and they wound you, just as Jesus placed himself in the hands of Judas who betrayed him, in the hands of Peter who denied him, in the hands of the other 10 who deserted him.  And he continues to place himself in our hands that do evil, on our tongues that malign, in our hearts that harbor hatred, we who receive him in the Eucharist.  But how can we follow his example?  How can we love this way?  It is difficult. 

We can love this way when we allow Jesus himself to live in us and to act in us.  It is in order to give us strength to follow his example that he instituted the Eucharist, the sacrament of perfect love, giving us the strength to imitate the example of perfect love.  This is what Jesus is offering us at every Mass. This is what we relive in a specially symbolic way at the Mass of the Last Supper. This is the greatest gift, the gift of perfect love.  No other gift can compare with the Eucharist, no night vigil, no crusade, no prayer meeting, no deliverance session.  The Eucharist is the real fellowship because it is, as St Paul reminds us in the Second Reading, our communion with the body and blood of Christ.  In the Eucharist, his body gives us strength because his blood flows in our veins.  In this regard, he not only shows us an example, he gives us the strength, the grace to live by this example.  He not only teaches us, he gives us the grace to live by the teaching.  He not only instructs us, he assists us.

Indeed, we need love, and we need the strength to love in our world today.  There is hatred, there is falsehood, there is deceit, there is vicious ambition, and there is power addiction that makes some people destroy others either by killing them physically or by assassinating their character.  Our world needs love.  Love is what we need most.  And Jesus offers it in the simple gifts of bread and wine, signs and instruments of his real presence in our world.  We can copy his example by being simple, simple as the one who offers us himself in simple gifts of bread and wine, simple as the simple gifts we offer.

The world will not be repaired by science and technology, despite their accomplishments.  The world will not be healed by human eloquence.  The world will not be pacified by military might or political clout.  The world will be healed by what Jesus is offering us under the forms of bread and wine.  And what does he offer us?  He offers us himself.  He offers us the eloquence of love in his body and blood.

It takes simplicity of heart to see him in the simple gifts he offers, in bread and in wine.  That is why we must pray for  the humility to see him, and the humility to receive him.  We need and we must pray for the courage to place ourselves before and in the hands of others.

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