Please excuse my bluntness. I don’t know if it’s sad news or good news. Fr. Joe is shrinking. I know, it’s true. “Two inches” last year, he told me. It could be more even as I speak. I’m down 3/4 of an inch in my previous physical, so I have some catching up to do. He gave me this white vestment because it didn’t fit him anymore. Thanks, Fr. Joe.
And here we are tonight, at the table of Our Lord. I mean that literally. Here we are gathered at the table of Our Lord. He is our Passover tonight. He is here to Pass Over to us what he received from His Father. His passion, death, and resurrection are his Passover given freely. He then Passes Over to us the baton of His Body like the track runner who reaches out, hoping not to drop it when handed off to the next runner. That next person is waiting, anxious and nervous but willing to firmly grab it away from the runner who ran his course.
It cannot be extinguished no matter how often we try during our trials or by others attempting to quench it from us. The tiniest of it, it holds on dearly with the hopeful enveloping that it can become. It still burns, especially in that Ukrainian chaos or on those sleepless nights of yours and mine. Ever so slowly burning. It is still active and alive.
The “it” is light. Light, for us, in all its Christian forms. It is the light of love. It is the light that Jesus passes over to us and then requests that we pass it on to others. The light of love. Thomas Merton wrote, “The gift of love is the gift of the power and the capacity to love, and, therefore, to give love with full effect is also to receive it. So, love can only be kept by being given away, and it can only be given perfectly when it is also received.” So, thanks again, Fr. Joe; I like it a lot.
So, what does Jesus say to us tonight? “Take this all of you; I’ll loan it to you.” No. Jesus says to us tonight, “Here, borrow it from me until I return.” Nope. Jesus says to us tonight, “Hold onto it for a while.” Enough of that “it” stuff. The “it” said by Him is His body and blood. The “it” said by Him to us is passing the light of His light to become our light living through Him. What a profound invitation. Or, better yet, what a profound challenge.
Jesus did His job. That’s the Last Supper; that’s Holy Thursday. Jesus passes over for us to pass on. He says at the Ascension in different words, “Get out there and baptize everyone you meet in my name, in my father’s name, along with the gentle power of the Holy Spirit.”
We tend to jump to the resurrection. But we don’t know about that yet, just like his disciples. Tonight is purely the giving of Jesus, who, while innocent, shrinks himself by dying a criminal’s death for others to become enlightened and grow into God’s light of love. So we can “pass on” because of His “Passover.”
Once more, Thomas Merton. “The truth I must love in my brother [and sister] is God Himself, living in [others]. I must see the life of the Spirit of God breathing in [others]. And I can only discern and follow that mysterious life by the action of the same Holy Spirit living and acting in the depths of my own heart.”
At a recent gathering of priests of all ages, I was taken back seeing those newly ordained priests who looked like they had just graduated eighth grade. I saw the youth and eagerness in their lighted eyes.
Fr. Joe, your white vestment fitted you well for as many years as I hope to, at least, match. I like it. I hope to find an eighth-grader who can one day also wear it.