Preaching for Holy Thursday
Sr. Marci Hermesdorf, OP

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

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Dinner—a word that conjures up images of good food and good company.
Both body and spirit are nourished in a meal shared with family or friends.

All three of today’s readings describe dinner—meals that occurred many hundreds of years apart.  The first reading from Exodus even provides a menu for the Passover meal the Israelites when danger lurked outside their doors.  The Egyptians were stricken, but the Israelites - sequestered in their homes, gathered at table - were saved.

In the second reading, Paul reminds the Corinthians of Jesus’ words at a dinner gathering.  Jesus himself had created the menu for a banquet that would nourish not just the bodies but also the souls of his followers. The menu was unconventional, consisting as it did of Jesus’ own Body and Blood in the form of bread and wine. A self-sacrificial banquet—a total giving of self to others for their good.

In the Gospel, we witness a Passover dinner that Jesus celebrates with His friends—a dinner focused on the unconventional behavior of the host, as Jesus washes their feet, a task usually performed by servants.  His reason: “I have given you a model to follow, that as I have done for you, you should also do.”  At this dinner, Jesus unites nourishment of body and soul with nourishing others through service.

Today as we, like the Israelites, are sequestered because of danger lurking in our world, we give thanks for the meal that Jesus provided for us: a meal that consists of his very self. A meal that includes both spiritual nourishment for each of us who partake (though spiritual communion in these days). A meal that calls us nourish one another in humble service.

During this extraordinary and challenging time, let us serve by helping, however we can, the others with whom we live and share bread as we measures to keep others safe from harm, and by praying for those in great need of emotional, psychological, and spiritual nourishment. Let us do as Jesus did.

Sr Marci Hermesdorf, OP is a Sinsinawa Dominican sister. She teaches in the English Department at Dominican University.