Maundy Thursday

As for my Mum, I am her favourite child. It doesn’t sound particularly modest, but I have no doubt it’s absolutely true. How could I possibly know that with such certainty? It’s simple: I’m her only child. Like most children I’ve been making her life difficult since I was born, but always within commonly acceptable boundaries. So we’ve never fallen apart. However, I think that two decisions I’ve made were really challenging to her. The first one, made about 25 years ago, was to become a priest. It took her a while to get used to it, but since she did, she’s always been very supportive. If there’s any value in my ministry I give credit to her prayers. My second decision, challenging to my Mum was when I decided to go to Scotland. Suddenly we were a thousand miles apart, ten times further away than any time before. She’s never complained about that, but it’s obvious to me. Initially it was quite difficult to keep in touch; the phone calls and travels were expensive; the latter took a long time as there were no direct flights. We could rarely speak to each other, and we couldn’t see each other. Tough. I had a solution: video calls over the internet via Skype. The only problem was that my Mum neither had a computer nor internet access. So I gave her a laptop, and with that I scared the life out of her. She was absolutely terrified of the idea of operating such a magical device. But she bravely stood up to the challenge, and all of a sudden we were able to talk and see each other at will with virtually no cost. Paradoxically we’ve been talking to and seeing each other much more often even than when I worked in Poland, just a hundred miles away.

When Jesus at his last supper announced to the Apostles that he would be gone, they were deeply saddened. They didn’t want him to leave them on their own; they were afraid of the future without his company. Jesus’ presence was reassuring; his absence would be devastating. But Jesus insisted on his plan of his ultimate self-sacrifice. However, he understood the Apostles’ anxiety and fear, so he offered them the Eucharist, the sacrament of his real, close and never-expiring presence. It was a challenge to them to move mentally from Jesus’ physical presence to the spiritual presence. They had to learn that new way of keeping in touch with him. Which they did, and suddenly they realised that Jesus was with them wherever they went, whatever they were doing, and in any circumstances they were thrown into. His companionship was much stronger and more reassuring than when he had crossed the Holy Land – now he wasn’t limited by time or space.

The Apostles passed the great gift of the Eucharist to their successors, and over all the generations to us, the modern-day followers of Christ. Many Catholics have dropped out of Mass attendance for various reasons, but one of the reasons is that they see the celebration of the Eucharist as a boring and meaningless exercise. Its rituals and symbols make no sense, and carry nothing meaningful to them. I can understand that. It’s like my Mum’s scare of computers before she learned how to use them. Celebrating and attending the Eucharist is challenging to many of us on many different levels. It requires some effort. But it’s worth it, as in return we can experience a very close and intimate presence of Jesus in our lives. Not based on our feelings which can be tricky and misleading, but based on the assurance given by Jesus himself: ‘remember, I am with you always, to the end of time.’