THE SACRED PASCHAL TRIDUUM, THURSDAY OF THE LORD’S SUPPER
Reading 1: Ex 12: 1-8, 11-14 We hear the account of the original Passover meal in all its details, along with God’s command that it be observed every year as a memorial feast.
Reading 2: 1 Cor 11: 23-26 St. Paul tells of the Lord’s Supper, the first Mass.
Gospel: Jn 13: 1-15 John describes Jesus’ act of washing the feet of the disciples at the Last Supper.
MAUNDY THURSDAY: CELEBRATION OF GOD’S LOVE
With today’s liturgy, we step into the three most sacred days of our Christian worship – the Pascal Triduum. Holy Thursday is a prelude to the most important events in human history – the death and resurrection of Jesus, the son of God. Holy Thursday is also called Maundy Thursday. Maundy is derived from the Latin word for “command,” (mandatum) and refers to Jesus’ commandment to the disciples to “Love one another as I have loved you.”
The first reading of today gives a detailed account of God’s involvement in setting the Jews free from their enslavement in Egypt. This tremendous intervention of God in setting them free, becomes the foundational event for the building up of Israel as a people and a nation. There is no other event or experience that carries equal importance in the whole history of Israel. However great, true, or tremendous might have been this event, it was still just a shadow of what God really wanted to do for humanity. What God did on that night is actualized and brought to fruition by Jesus on the cross.
The event that is to take place on the cross on Good Friday is so significant that Jesus desires to impress it on the minds of his disciples. Hence, the institution of the sacrament of the Eucharist, and of the priesthood, which are bound by the common thread of service, are acted out by the washing of the disciples’ feet. These events are so profound that no human reason can exhaust their riches. Itis through the Eucharist that the promise of Jesus, “I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Mt 28:20) is fully realized.
The Eucharist is known through different names: “thanksgiving”, “communion”, “memorial”, “Viaticum” etc. First, the Eucharist means thanksgiving (the Greek word for ‘thanksgiving’), and through it we thank the Father for the immeasurable love shown through His Son. During Mass, ordinary bread and wine are offered, and then transformed into the body and blood of Jesus through the invocation of the Holy Spirit, and are given back to the assembly for their nourishment.
Second, the Eucharist signifies “communion”, of the Church (people of God) with God, and then among the people of God themselves. It is the Church that celebrates the Eucharist, and the Eucharist builds up the Church. Though the priest or bishop presides over the celebration, it is the whole assembly which celebrates the Eucharist. It is the prayer of the congregation, not of a single individual.
Third, the Eucharist is a “memorial”, as it commemorates what Jesus did during the Last Supper and on the Cross. After handing over the bread and then the cup of wine, Jesus told his disciples – “Do this in memory of me”. Hence, every Eucharist recalls to mind the final hours of Jesus on this earth. The Eucharist is also known with the name “Viaticum” – the food for the journey from this world to the Heavenly Kingdom.
Along with the Eucharist, Jesus instituted the order of Priesthood. At the beginning of His ministry Jesus had called the apostles, “to be with Him and to be sent out” (Mk 3:14). Though none of them had an extraordinary life, yet after the death of Jesus they went to whole world and instituted the Church. Bishops are the direct continuation of the apostles. The Priests and bishops are collaborators in Christ’s sheep to green pastures. In and through them, Jesus continues to work amidst us.
We cannot thank God enough for the gift of the Eucharist – the source and summit of Christian life – and of the priesthood. We thank the Lord for these generous men who, from the beginnings of the Church, have given themselves to be the for us ‘another Christ’. In spite of all the problems and challenges, the priesthood instituted on the Holy Thursday has come down to our own day, being for us ministers of heavenly mysteries. We need to pray for seminarians and the increase of vocations, that what Jesus did on the Cross might be proclaimed and re-lived for generations to come. Response: The cup of blessing is a participation in the blood of Christ.
Responsorial Psalm: Ps 116: 12-13, 15-18 The cup of blessing that is a participation in the blood of Christ.
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