“Do this in memory of me,” Jesus says after he took the bread, said the blessing and broke the bread. This was at the final meal he would share with his disciples prior to his passion. We hear the words every time we celebrate the Eucharist. The words are part of the “consecration,” the most central part of the Mass.
We hear these words today, Palm Sunday, as part of the Proclamation of the Passion of the Lord. Jesus offers himself in the sacrifice of the cross. He lays down his life for us, his friends. His offering is complete. He offers his entire self.
The suffering of the passion is physical, mental, spiritual and affective. His body is scourged, beaten, tortured and ravaged. He is taunted, mocked and tormented. He is tempted, betrayed and denied. He suffers and dies.
All through this he is faithful. “Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me; still, not my will but yours be done.” He remains faithful to the end. He trusts the Father and relies on him and him alone.
St. Paul, in his Letter to the Philippians, writes that Jesus “emptied himself, taking the form of a slave.” He holds nothing back in his offering. As we remember his passion, we have the opportunity to grow in our thanksgiving for God’s love. It knows no bounds. Jesus’ love of the Father is a love he shares with us.
In the midst of the darkest moments of our lives, we find companionship with the One who leads us and guides us. He leads us through the suffering to a place of peace. At the very same time, he invites us to share in his offering.
Jesus’ self-offering happened once for all. Our celebration of the Eucharist makes present that one perfect offering. It is in this context that we hear Jesus say, “do this in memory of me.” We fulfill his command in celebrating the Eucharist and when we offer our lives with his. With him, we do this in faith and love.
When we face suffering with faith, we “do this in memory of” him.
When we resist temptation to despair or lose hope, we “do this in memory of” him.
When we courageously endure pain, we “do this in memory of” him.
When we rely on our heavenly Father, we “do this in memory of” him.
When we give of ourselves for others, we “do this in memory of” him.
When we welcome the stranger, we “do this in memory of” him.
When we feed the hungry, we “do this in memory of” him.
When we clothe the naked, we “do this in memory of” him.
When we shelter the homeless, we “do this in memory of” him.
When we encourage the downcast, we “do this in memory of” him.
When we support the oppressed, we “do this in memory of” him.
When we proclaim the Kingdom of God, we “do this in memory of” him.
When we offer thanksgiving, we “do this in memory of” him.
When we forgive one another, we “do this in memory of” him.
And when we love all people regardless of status, race, ethnicity or faults, we “do this in memory of” him.
Msgr. Joseph Prior is pastor of Our Lady of Grace Parish, Penndel, and a former professor of Sacred Scripture and rector of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary.
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