When I was growing up, like a lot of families, mine had one of those small, cheap Kodak Instamatic cameras. You used those flash bulbs that looked like ice cubes…and got these little square pictures back from the drug store when you had them developed. My dad must have taken hundreds, if not thousands of pictures with that camera. I never appreciated them until years later, after I was grown, and my parents had died, and we were going through their things and we found all these pictures. Boxes of them, curled and faded. But there they were – life, captured by Kodak. Memories you can put in a shoebox.
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We need that. We want something of the person we love to outlast them, and stay with us.
We want to remember them.
And remembrance is at the very heart of what we celebrate this evening. But Jesus didn’t leave us photographs in a shoebox. He left us something better.
He left us Himself.
Paul’s letter to the people of Corinth is the earliest account ever written of the Last Supper. It pre-dates, even, the gospels. It is so close to the original event, that its words are part of our Eucharistic prayer, spoken at every mass, at every altar, around the world. The words that created the Eucharist are the beating heart of our Catholic Christian belief.
Do this in remembrance of me.
Jesus is saying: This is how I want to be remembered.
In the gospel, John doesn’t even mention the meal, or the institution of the Eucharist. But he finds something else for us to remember: Christ, the servant.
Deacons feel a special affection for this passage, because it is here that the diaconate, really, is born — in Christ’s extraordinary act of service, the washing of his disciples’ feet. Often, you will see emblems for the diaconate that include the image of a basin and a towel. It refers to this specific passage. And it is a reminder that we are called to serve – to wash one another’s feet, in humility and in love, just as Jesus did.
But it is not just the ordained who are called to this. It is all of Christ’s disciples. All who sit at His table and share in His body and blood.
All of us.
“You ought to wash one another’s feet,” Jesus says. “I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.”
In other words: remember what I have done. And do this, too, in remembrance of me.
— Holy Thursday homily, 2008.