Eileen Brosnahan rsm
4 April 2011
Dr Anthony Gittins, a priest of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit and Professor of Theology and Culture at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, enthralled a large audience in Connolly Hall on January 31 as he explored the statement ‘Do this in memory of me’.
These instructions, which are repeated uniformly and unambiguously at every Eucharist, are found only in the Gospel of Luke and in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. The question is: ‘What did Jesus mean us to do?’
Dr Gittins asked his audience to envisage the scene at the Last Supper where Jesus, aware that powerful forces were gathering against him, was meeting with his disciples at a crucial point. In these last few hours it was imperative that they understand the message that he had been trying to get across to them but which they so often had not understood.
Jesus was asking his disciples to recall all that he had been teaching them. What had they learned from him? This was dangerous remembering: the whole of Jesus’ public life was a life of sacrifice after he came from the wilderness. The derivation of the word sacrifice means making holy, doing holy things. In Matthew’s gospel when the disciples told Jesus the crowd had nothing to eat, Jesus told them: ‘You give them something to eat’. They were looking to Jesus to feed the people but Jesus expected them to show compassionate concern and take appropriate action.
Jesus had repeatedly told his followers to listen with ears that hear and learn from him. Do we encounter persons one at a time and be vulnerable to their concerns? Jesus dined with Simon the leper; who do we share our bread with? When do we wash the feet of another? To be true disciples we must go beyond our comfort zone.
To be his disciple means taking up the cross daily, crossing the boundaries of class, economics, race, gender, religion, family and responding not just to friends and neighbours but, more importantly, to strangers and enemies.
Eucharist cannot be just a Sunday ritual. Eucharist is not only to feed us but to make us hungrier for justice. It must be the fabric of our lives where we are energised for the life of the world.