As a child, I’d easily infuriate my mother further in any disagreement we had. Not being willing to back down, I’d often cause the common cry to be uttered, “You always have to have the last word!’
At Mass, it’s the Deacon who has the last word – when one is present, at least! As the people raise their bowed heads after the blessing, the Deacon raises his voice. ‘Go in peace!’
His last action was fulfilling the thirst of the people with the chalice of life, before turning to the pots and pans, saving the remnants of the Sacrament, gathering up the crumbs, consuming the last drop. And then, after inviting the people to bow their head for the blessing, he speaks the last word. ‘Go in peace.’
For one whose role is servanthood, the command is direct. The command to ‘Go in peace’ then flows from his own ministry of being in the world, the assurance that he will see you there, feeding the poor, meeting people at their point of need.
The command is Christ-like for it was Christ, yes, who gave the first command of dismissal which became his last earthly word too.
There on the mountain, gathered with his disciples, he says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’ (Mt 28:19-20).
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’”Matthew 28:19-20
St. Ephraem, himself a deacon, said of the Eucharist, “Whoever eats it in belief eats in it Fire and Spirit.”
Remember how those disciples, drawn to Emmaus with Jesus as their unrecognizable travelling companion and who breaks bread with them at the journey’s end, asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together (Luke 24:32-33).
There is no pause, no cause for concern, just an inflamed heart eager to share the news of what they have experienced, their hearts burning within them.
The Breaking of Bread stirs us to mission, strengthens us to serve God in the world, calls us to live a Eucharistic life, filled with the presence of Christ. The command is clear. ‘Go in peace.’
In a hymn well known by pilgrims to the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham, at the end of our pilgrimage, huddled in the Holy House, we give thanks for blessings received and sing farewell, although it is not an easy parting: “O holy house of Walsingham! | Here would we ever dwell | but Jesus calls us to the strife | and tumults of our daily life | Our Lady’s Shrine, “Farewell.”
There is of course much comfort in being in a place of safety, a familiar setting where we feel at home where little may be demanded of us. But we need to move on, move outwards, move others. To the strife and tumults of daily life.
“Remain in peace, O Altar of God,” goes a Syro-Maronite Farewell to the Altar. “May the offering that I have taken from you be for the remission of my debts and the pardon of my sins… I do not know if I will have the opportunity to return and offer another sacrifice upon you. Protect me, O Lord, and preserve your holy Church as the way to truth and salvation.”