Preparing to Encounter Jesus

St. Mark’s version of the Last Supper includes a rather detailed account of the precise preparations that Jesus asks two of His disciples to make in anticipation of the Passover. The details of this preparation are not incidental — they carry within themselves rich messages of how we ought to prepare ourselves when we encounter Jesus in His body, blood, soul and divinity in the Eucharist.

Jesus tells the two disciples that upon entering the city, they will meet a man carrying a jar of water. Scholars tell us that the task of carrying a pot or jar of water was never done by men — it was a woman’s job. Thus, it would be easy for the two disciples to recognize a man carrying a jar of water. The man carrying the pitcher of water symbolizes each of the baptized, seeking heaven, the great upper room (or Cenacle), where the foretaste of heaven, the Eucharist, would be celebrated. Notice that the upper room is large and furnished and ready. It’s as if the master of the house was anticipating the arrival of the two disciples and later on, the Lord Himself.

The symbolism contained within the description of the disciples’ preparations is instructive for our participation in the feast of the great upper room — the Eucharist. Like the two disciples, we are charged with preparing to encounter our Lord in His real presence. Like the uniqueness of the man carrying a water jar, each baptized person has a unique position in the world — to live in the world but not become a cooperator in its spirit. Instead, the Christian, while remaining firmly grounded on earth, gazes upwards towards the Cenacle — symbolic of heaven. In the Eucharist, the Christian encounters Jesus and receives a foretaste of heavenly glory.

Our immediate experience of this encounter lies within the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. We are invited to prepare our minds, hearts and bodies in anticipation of the re-presentation of Paschal Mystery. Our minds and hearts and bodies ought to be oriented towards adoration of our Lord, contrition for our sins, thanksgiving for our blessings and crosses, and supplications offered with particular intentions in mind. Even our bodily postures during the Mass, of kneeling and genuflecting, should remind of us of who we are about to encounter as we approach the altar for Holy Communion. Our discipline of an hour fast before receiving our Lord into our bodies and souls reminds us of the purity and sense of mortification we must adopt if we are to imitate Him authentically.

Hence, our preparation for Holy Mass, like the disciples’ preparation for the Passover, must be precise and meticulous. As Jesus makes Himself present to us as a gift beyond all telling, so must we prepare ourselves to respond to His gift of self by our proper dispositions during Mass. In a consumerist society like our own, the common attitude about preparing for Mass may be, “What will I get out of it?” Instead, we should ask, “How will I offer myself to God during Mass in order to match Jesus’ love and gift of self to me?” If we prepare well for Mass, we will soon discover that as much as we think we are giving of ourselves to Jesus, He is never outdone in His generous outpouring of His very life into our own.

Fr. Magat is parochial vicar at St. Elizabeth of Hungary Church in Colonial Beach, Virginia, and St. Anthony of Padua Mission in King George, Virginia.

(This article courtesy of the Arlington Catholic Herald.)

Subscribe to CE
(It's free)

Go to Catholic Exchange homepage