Holy Thursday – 16
Exo.12:1-2, 1-8, 11-14/ 1Cor.11:23-26/ Jn.13:1-15
“Before the feast of Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to pass from this world to the Father.”
You might think that Jesus, knowing that in just a few hours he would be nailed to a cross, would have had more important things on his mind than a meal. If someone came up to you, and told you that you were going to be killed in less than 24 hours, would you sit down for a meal?
Many people would skip eating all together: after all, if you really knew that you were going to die in less than 24 hours, why feed your body? Wouldn’t there be more important things to put first?
But if you would answer “yes, I’d sit down for a meal,” then ask yourself, “Would you sit down for a banquet?” Would you spend about three out of your remaining 24 hours at a banquet? That’s what Jesus did.
Of course, to use the word “banquet” is still selling short what Jesus did at the Last Supper. The Last Supper was a meal. It was a banquet. The Passover Meal was the ritual meal of the Jews saying that the sacrifice of their ancestors had been worth it.
And that if they had to choose for themselves, they would do it all over again: that freedom from slavery is worth the price that had to be paid, because God had something greater in mind for His Chosen People than slavery.
Some Jews, like Judas Iscariot, thought that “something greater” was a powerful Kingdom on earth. But Jesus came into this world for something that goes beyond any earthly hopes, plans, or desires.
Jesus came into this world to destroy the power of sin and death. Jesus came into this world to offer freedom from sin, not from Pharaoh. Jesus came into this world to open up again the gates of Heaven, not the Red Sea.
This is the freedom that Jesus won by dying on the Cross. But tonight, Jesus institutes the Eucharist, as a sacred meal—a sacrament—that lets us share in the power of the Cross, that makes us present at Calvary.
This Sacrament of the Eucharist is the foretaste of all of the goodness that God has prepared for us. Jesus gave us this Sacrament on the night before He died as a way of sharing in His promise to deliver us from every form of slavery, from every one of our sins, and to lead us from this world into something that is greater and that lasts forever.
Today we begin the Holy Triduum with the commemoration of the Lord’s Supper, which was actually the Institution of the Holy Eucharist. Today is called Holy Thursday. Some of us may remember that it is also called Maundy Thursday.
That word “Maundy” is derived from the Latin word “mandatum” which means mandate. It refers to the new commandment of love that Jesus gave to His apostles at the Last Supper. Jesus also instituted the Holy Eucharist and He commanded His apostles to do likewise when He said: Do this in memory of me.
Yet the strange thing is that the gospel we have just heard did not mention anything about Jesus consecrating bread and wine into His body and blood. Instead there is this intriguing account of Jesus washing the feet of His disciples.
The account began by saying that Jesus had always loved those who were His, and now He showed how perfect His love was. He got up, took a towel, poured water into a basin and then washed His disciples’ feet.
So, how would washing His disciples’ feet show how great His love was? Well, for one, let us remember that it was not just the Master washing His disciples’ feet. It was God washing man’s feet! It was literally an out-of-this-world act of humility.
Yes, it was certainly out of this world. Yet it was as downright as an act that was out of the will. In other words, Jesus was willing to wash His disciples’ feet. He was willing and that’s what make it loving.
Similarly, He was willing to give us His body and blood, and that’s what makes the Eucharist so loving. In the simple humble act of washing the feet, Jesus showed us what the Eucharist is all about and what our service should be like.
Indeed, Jesus has always loved us and He showed us how deep His love is and how willingly He loved us, even to accepting death on the cross. So later, let us spend the rest of the evening with Jesus at the Altar of Repose.
Let us stay with Jesus in His agony in the garden. Let us recall the words of Jesus: Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass me by. Nevertheless, let Your will be done, not mine. Jesus willingly washed His disciples’ feet. Jesus willingly gave us His body and blood.
We only need to understand this – in order to do it lovingly, we must first do it willingly. In short, we must be willing to love. Jesus gave us the example and the mandate. Let us humbly and willingly do it.
So today we celebrate three anniversaries: 1) the anniversary of the first Holy Mass, 2) the anniversary of the institution of ministerial priesthood, in order to perpetuate the Holy Mass, to convey God’s forgiveness to repentant sinners and to preach the good news of salvation.
And 3) the anniversary of the promulgation of Jesus’ new commandment of love: “Love one another as I have loved you” (Jn.13:34).
So today Christ Jesus invites us to become Christ-bearers and Christ-conveyers: “Go forth, the Mass is ended,” really means, “Go in peace to love and serve one another.’’ We are to carry Jesus to our homes and places of work, conveying to others around us the love, mercy, forgiveness and spirit of humble service of Christ Whom we carry with us. Amen.