My mother would often get mad when people compared one of her children to the other suggesting perhaps that I should be more like my older brother in following his best behaviour. For her, we were unique and not to be measured by the other. We’ve all turned out rather differently. Years into adulthood, my younger brother said to my mother that if she had known how much he hated going to church, she would never have made him go. Alas, she had no regrets.
As children we had to do things we didn’t always want to do, even though we may not see the worth at the time. Adults are not immune to this! It’s very rare to go through life without having to do some things we don’t want to do, or to do things just because they happen to be our duty or responsibility rather through any great desire. At other times, we do things for others, however reluctantly, simply because we love them.
Ordered to Love
Our Christian Faith is no different. There will be times when we just don’t feel like doing certain things. We don’t feel like going to Mass or meeting that person in their need. We would rather not spend time in prayer or turning the pages of Holy Scripture. Perhaps we regret having to carry out a particular role we’ve been given or volunteered for, or going to that meeting we’d rather miss.
At the heart of our life with Christ is not a large collection of orders or commands but one simple order to love. On the night of his arrest, Jesus gave his disciples a Mandatum – to do as they have seen him do, to wash one another’s feet, to put love into action. The washing of feet is a sign of servanthood, a call to lay down our lives for God and for others.
Within the context of the Passover Meal in that upper room, Jesus takes bread, takes wine, gives thanks for them, and gives them to his disciples. “This is my body. This is my blood. Do this in remembrance of me.”
At his word
Those first Christians appear to have taken Jesus at his word. Their life together was characterised by fellowship, listening to the apostles’ teaching, by prayer and ‘the Breaking of Bread’ – an early name for the Eucharist. It was not an optional extra but something which lay at the heart of their lives.
There may be times when we just don’t feel like going to Mass, or we think of our Sunday obligation as an option, as something we do when we feel like it, when it suits us. If we love Jesus, if we trust in him, want to be near him, want to grow in grace and holiness, then his command to ‘Do this’ must make us sit up and get up and simply go to Mass.
Parents will sometimes tell their children to “eat their food” because “It’s good for them” when rather the children would prefer to be doing their own thing or eating something else that perhaps isn’t so healthy. Mother Church teaches us a similar lesson.
‘The Holy Eucharist is the Sacrament commanded by Christ for the continual remembrance of his life, death and resurrection, until his coming again,” says the Catechism of The Church in Wales (50)
“If you love me,” said Jesus, “you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). Perhaps, when all is said and done, this is enough for us. Yes, whenever we have doubts or misgivings or feelings of lethargy, perhaps this is enough.
We celebrate the Eucharist because Jesus told us to. He commands us to eat the food which he gives, the very gift of himself. It’s good for us. In that, there can be no regrets.