A Body Broken for Broken People – Ro Atilano, SJ

John 13:1-15, MaundyThursday

This is Mass of the Lord’s Supper. Tonight, we commemorate the evening when Jesus gathered his friends for a meal and washed their feet. Yet it was also the same evening when he was betrayed and denied by his friends whom he shared his last supper with and whose feet he washed. And this was the night when Jesus instituted the Sacrament of the Eucharist and the Sacrament of Priesthood – two great sacraments of God’s grace instituted by Jesus in the context of betrayal and denial.

Fr. Francis Moloney in his book, A Body Broken for Broken People, describes the Eucharist as this: a body broken for broken people. For the past three days, we have been hearing in the Gospels what Judas was about to do. It was during the Last Supper, on this night of betrayal, which the Eucharist began. Jesus was quite aware that he was to be betrayed by his close friend, and yet he offered the bread, the Eucharist to Judas. The first Eucharist was a shameful meal of denial and betrayal transformed by the Lord into a meal of unconditional love and forgiveness. This is what the Eucharist is truly all about – it is the Body of Christ broken for broken people; broken to heal our very own brokenness. It is the Body of Christ torn apart to heal our woundedness. It is God’s way of reaching out to us even, or rather especially, during our sinfulness. And so, therefore, the Eucharist is for sinners like all of us, betrayers, “deniers,” and doubters just like the first apostles. Pope Francis said that the Eucharist is “not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak.” The Eucharist is God’s offer of his unfathomable mercy and unconditional love. For God loves the broken; God chooses the broken.

And yet there were times when we have made the Eucharist become almost like an exclusive meal of the righteous. Blinded by our own self-righteousness we have alienated other people from the Eucharist. We have forgotten that the original context of the Eucharist is our human sinfulness and that it is not meant for the perfect. The Eucharist is Christ Jesus Himself. Yet how could we deprive God’s people from receiving Christ? We are all in need of God’s mercy and forgiveness. The Eucharist, which our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, is God’s offering of His mercy and compassion. For God loves the broken; God chooses the broken.

Then there is the Sacrament of Priesthood. Why would Jesus institute this Sacrament to the ones who were weak, to the ones who would betray or deny him, or doubt him in the end? The sacrament of priesthood is indeed a great mystery. The longer I stay as a Jesuit and the more I get to know myself, my sinful tendencies and my own brokenness, the more I also wonder why would God call me to this vocation and what could He do through me. During our ordination as the names of the Saints were called and I was there prostrated on the sanctuary, I broke down in tears when I heard the first words of the Litany, Lord have mercy. It is only through the miracle of mercy that I have been given this gift of priesthood. There is nothing in us that deserve such a grace. Yet in a very mysterious way, he chooses the weak and the broken. No wonder Peter felt embarrassed and unworthy when Jesus was about to wash his feet. Peter knew who he was before the Lord. And yet Jesus washed his feet and all those present in the upper room that night. That night when Jesus instituted the Sacrament of Priesthood, he chose the broken so that their brokenness becomes the source of healing of the brokenness of others. For God loves the broken; God chooses the broken.

And then here we all are – priests, religious, and lay – gathered around this sacred meal to receive the broken Body of Christ that our sinful and broken selves will be broken even more for others. This is our call – to be like the broken body of Jesus, that our lives as well be broken for the broken people we love and serve. Then in that way we mysteriously become the Body of Christ, the presence of Christ.

Brothers and sisters, as we enter into the passion, death, and resurrection, we thank the Lord for this gift of mercy and for the gift of vocation. We thank God for gracing us and for choosing us despite our brokenness. We thank the Lord for calling us, priests and lay people, to give ourselves to others.

For God loves the broken; God chooses the broken. Amen


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