Friday, April 2, 2010

Holy Thursday - Mass of the Lord's Supper

Holy Thursday’s Mass of the Last Supper is the first liturgy of the Paschal Triduum. This is the only Mass of the liturgical year in which we also find the washing of the feet. But what does it mean? To better understand, let’s look at the readings for this liturgy.

First Reading – Exodus 12:1-14
In the first reading, God establishes the Passover as a permanent feast for the Israelites. This memorial feast was to remind them of what God had done in delivering them from slavery to the Egyptians. It also tells of His covenant and his fidelity to his promises. Every Passover the Israelites would look back but they also looked to the future - at what God was going to do for them in sending them a Messiah. The meal was to be celebrated in community because God was saving all His people and they ate in haste because they were to move quickly if they wished to move from slavery to freedom. Eating the bitter herbs was a reminder of the sufferings they endured under slavery. Finally, they were commanded to remember - "Do this..."

Jim Caviezel as Jesus in "Passion of the Christ"

Second Reading – 1 Cor 11:23-26
St. Paul reminds us of what Jesus did at the Last Supper. So Paul repeats the actions and the words Jesus spoke at that Supper so that we will remember them. (Jesus) “took bread, and, after he had given thanks, broke it and said, ‘This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’” Then He took the cup of blessing and said, “’This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’” But these words were not part of the Passover tradition. Jesus was changing the Passover meal to the confusion of the disciples. What could Jesus mean? They would only understand after Jesus’ death.

Gospel Reading John 13:1-15
While the other evangelists give a detailed description of the last supper as a Passover meal, only John indicates that this meal is BEFORE Passover. On this night, during the meal, Jesus girds Himself with a towel and bends down with basin to wash His disciples’ feet. Instead of the institution of the Eucharist as in the synoptic gospels, Jesus shows us what Eucharist is all about. But they do not understand His actions, so Jesus makes it plain what He has done. “If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet, you too must wash each other’s feet.” Jesus never intended for the washing of feet to end. He was teaching us to do the same, over and over. “I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.”
For the disciples to truly understand the significance of Jesus’ actions, they would have to see Jesus lifted on the cross. They would only come to understand Jesus Himself as the true Passover Lamb who died to free us from slavery to sin when they understood the significance of everything He did while He was teaching them. Jesus’ entire life led Him to the cross where His gave it freely out of love for each of us.

Our smallest services given to our neighbor takes on an infinite dimension when we do it out of love. These actions are simply the prelude to that total sacrifice for which we must all be prepared. They look forward to the kingdom towards which we should all be moving. We must follow Jesus to the cross – to the suffering of His passion – to allow His spirit of true poverty to quicken within us. Then we will understand the true meaning of His sacrifice and be moved to meet the needs of others.

I have a teacher friend with a student who came into the classroom one day and told her, “Mrs. Yolan, today I am going to be a lover.” When asked what she meant, the little girl said, “I am going to love everyone today so that the world will be a better place.” Out of the mouths of babes comes the greatest wisdom. To be willing to serve others without reflecting on the cost to ourselves is the true love that Jesus is calling all of us to. How many of us can say, “Today, I am going to be a lover.”?

Looking at the empty tabernacle last night, I thought about how different the world would be if we all loved the way Jesus loved. If we take the Eucharist - the Real Presence - and become Jesus’ living tabernacle, then we will continue what Jesus did. The world would indeed be a better place. You never know when you might be called to be Jesus to someone. You never know what shoes another person stands in. You never know – until you truly love.

by Bernadette Farrell

Bread for the world: a world of hunger.
Wine for all peoples: people who thirst.
May we who eat be bread for others.
May we who drink pour out our love.

1. Lord Jesus Christ, you are the bread of life,
broken to reach and heal the wounds of human pain.
Where we divide your people, you are waiting there
on bended knee to wash our feet with endless care.

2. Lord Jesus Christ, you are the wine of peace,
poured into hearts once broken and where dryness sleeps.
Where we are tired and weary, you are waiting there
to be the way which beckons us beyond despair.

3. Lord Jesus Christ, you call us to your feast,
at which the rich and pow'rful have become the least.
Where we survive on others in our human greed,
you walk among us begging for your ev'ry need.

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