Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of June 17, 2002
Drop the right to be right: worship as one
By FR. RON ROLHEISER, omi
It's more important to be in union in Christ and each other than to be liturgically, aesthetically and politically correct.
Where the other Gospels place the institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper, John inserts a quite different kind of "Eucharistic" text. In place of having Jesus take the bread and wine and say, "This is my body. This is my blood," John has Jesus washing the feet of his disciples - precisely as a "Eucharistic" act. How so?
To the popular mind, this gesture is understood as a lesson in humility, namely, Jesus, the master, turns the mantle of privilege into the apron of service. That lesson clearly is there: but there's more.
Jesus is also saying something important about the Eucharist with this gesture (which is why the Church chose this text, rather than one recording the words of institution, as its Gospel-text for Holy Thursday). What does the washing of the feet say about the Eucharist?
In essence, Jesus is saying this: "Acquiescing to each other in charity and service, in this way, is what the Eucharist really means. If we can't do this for each other, perhaps we shouldn't be celebrating the Eucharist at all. We can give up our right to be right!"
That's an important challenge. We simply fight too much about the Eucharist. Everyone, it seems, has an important, non-negotiable, truth that he or she feels may not, at any cost, be compromised: Catholics and Protestants fight over the real presence (at least over its vocabulary); feminists and traditionalists fight over language; liturgists fight with the common folk over how a service should be properly done; artists fight with the pious over liturgical aesthetics; choir directors fight with pastors over the choice of songs; priests fight with each other over the issue of concelebration; bishops fight with church boards over how liturgical space should be constructed, and people at Eucharistic services glare at each other and throw private tantrums because a certain song mentions dancing or names us as wretched sinners.
Too often what's at stake under all this is more pride than truth, more the need to be right than the need to worship.
Jesus washing his disciples' feet leaves this message: It's more important to be in union in Christ and each other than to be liturgically, aesthetically and politically correct.
What the Eucharist asks of us is to acquiesce to each other, to give up our right to be right.
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