Theme: Do this in memory of me
As we prepare ourselves to celebrate the glorious Resurrection of our Lord on Easter; we begin with celebrating Holy Thursday; a feast that commemorates the institution of the Holy Eucharist. In the history of the Catholic Church, this solemnity is associated with the reconciliation of penitents, consecration of the holy oils, washing of the feet, institution of the Blessed Eucharist and Ministerial Priesthood. Holy Thursday is the night on which our Lord Jesus celebrated the Last Supper with His disciples. What went through their mind on that night, we will never know. What is sure is that His hour had come to depart from the world. While Jesus had prepared his disciples for some time even mentioning about betrayed and crucifixion, they perceived little of what he was telling them. Most of them were fishermen with barely any education except about boats and nets. Before the Passover, Jesus washed their feet saying “as I have loved you, you also love one another” John 13: 34. Jesus made sure that love and service were impeccable in their hearts. While they acknowledged Jesus as the Son of God and Messiah, their last actions at the time of arrest revealed contrary. Today our love for one another must rise and shine.
First reading: Exodus 12: 18, 11-14
In this reading God alludes through Moses that the day of the New Covenant with clear signs. The Passover become the day when Israelites would be freed from slavery marking for them the beginning of months. God spoke of taking a lamb without blemish to fulfill this purpose and commanded Moses that eating it would spare Israelites from death and disaster that would befall the rest. God insisted on the firstborn to declare the significance and importance of the matter. This is a co-penetration of Jesus who is “the firstborn and the first fruits of those who have died” Romans 8:29. Through this blood, they would be justified cf. Romans 5:9. To pass over those with the blood of the lamb indicated gratuitous salvation that God grants all those who believe. Jesus said, “Truly, I tell you, anyone who hears my word and believes has eternal life” John. 5:24.
God’s Angel passed over Egypt and eliminated evil. Those days the Egyptians worshipped different idols as it is still rampart through materialism and consumerism of our time. Today we are reminded that it is by the blood of the Lamb we are made righteous. This blood removes the stains of “sin that we previously committed” Romans 3:25. In the days of Moses, God commanded that the Feast of the Passover be remembered annually celebrated as a festival to the Lord, throughout every generation as a perpetual ordinance. This command is a picture of the feast of this Holy Thursday. In the daily celebration of the Holy Mass throughout the world we maintain the words of Jesus that do this in memory of me.
Second reading: 1Corinthians 11:23-26
In this reading, St. Paul presents some of the customs of the early Church. He begins with minor issues such as how people are to dress, but ends up raising the major problem of division. The early celebrations of the Lord’s Supper started with a meal. Instead of sharing, these Corinthians ended up divided at the table by sharing their food with those with whom they liked. The rich looked for their march while the poor went hungry. Paul reminded them that they were not celebrating the Eucharist as Christ intended it; instead they were using is as an opportunity to demonstrate materialism, consumerism and arrogance. Paul thus reminded them of that the true Eucharist is breaking of the Bread which is the body of Christ as we still maintain in our Holy Mass today that: This is my Body which is given up for you. This is the Cup of the new covenant of my blood. Paul wants the Corinthians to remember what is taking place and whom they are celebrating. He tells them that this action proclaims the death of the Lord until He comes.
The Eucharistic celebration is a moment for unity in the Christian community. When divisions arise they become an antithesis of the entire action. In our current Eucharistic celebration places a sign of peace before reception of the communion. The person we offer peace to represent anyone with whom we need to be reconciled. St. Paul reminds us that from Jesus we receive a New Covenant of Grace and we proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. So sacred is the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist that “whoever, eats the bread and drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be answerable for the body and blood of the Lord” 1 Corinthians. 11:27. To avoid this tough judgment, we must receive the Holy Eucharist in a state of grace.
Gospel: John 13:1-15
The Eucharist is smoothly understood when connected to action of washing of the feet. This is not just a side incident but an introduction to the main dinner where bread and wine, are proclaimed the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. The washing of feet is a prophetic action that demands our humble acceptance from the Lord to wash the feet of other and to serve them without limit. When Jesus washed the feet of his disciples he performed what even slave could not do. The slave could kiss the feet of his or her master but really asked to wash them. This gesture was degrading, disgusting, but the Lord did it for his disciples. Jesus empted and give himself completely to them by even giving them his Body and Blood through death on the Cross. He demonstrated to them that the Love of God had no limits. For Jesus, nothing was too demanding, love was all that mattered. The measure of true love is love without measure.
The meal of love, the Last Supper, began with a courageous act demonstrating the love we all experience pouring down on us from the Cross. This action demands our humbly accepting of Jesus because we cannot conquer evils of the world alone. We have to let Jesus do it with us. The pure example is Peter who tried to prevent Jesus remarking that he ‘would not wash his feet’. Jesus answered that if he would not allow him to wash him, then he will have no business with him. Peter’s prideful way of life is witnessed in the times when many baptized Catholics have withdrawn from the Eucharist. The statement that some say; ‘I don’t go to Mass but I pray in my own room’. This might sound pietistic and nice, but is the same as saying, I don’t need the Eucharist. Why would anyone who has been admitted to communion ever think that he or she does not need communion? Could it be that we have become so proud that we think we do not need to participate in such a humble and repetitive saving mystery? This evening reminds us that the Meal of Love begins with our humble recognition that we need Jesus Christ to touch us.
Even touching us is far from sufficient. Jesus does not allow his disciples to turn their focus into themselves. He would not allow them to be satisfied with what he does for them. Instead we hear him instruct; you call me teacher and master, and rightly so, for indeed I am. If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do for others. The washing of the feet is an evangelical sign of the gift of the Body and Blood of the Lord at the Last Supper and on the Cross and we are called to witness in the same way by doing what Jesus did.
We are called to offer our energies, our savings and even our lives for others. We are not just called to be nourished; we are called to nourish others. An essential element of the Eucharist is found in the mandate of “do to others as you would have them do to you” Luke 6:31. Through the Eucharist we are nourished and are able to nourish others and both must take place. If we are not nourished by Christ, then our actions for others become mere acts of humanitarianism. If we do receive communion but do not empty ourselves for others, then our reception is devoid of the very reason why Christ emptied Himself. Being a Christian is not for the faint of heart but for those who have hearts full of love. The common guideline is also given by St. Augustine of Hippo that Love first and then do whatever else you want.
Today’s feat has a strong message for all of us. First of all Holy Thursday is in remembrance of the institution of the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist which is the summit of Christian life. The second message is that we must receive the Holy Eucharist when we are worthy. Third, we must humble ourselves to the extent of washing the feet of others. During our procession with the Blessed Sacrament through the Church to the table where we wait and watch with Him in the Garden of Olives; we need to pray that we keep awake with him until the moment of his resurrection. Peace be with you.