Theme: THE LORD INSTITUTED THE HOLY EUCHARIST TO MAKE PRESENT, REAL AND EFFECTIVE HIS DEATH, RESURRECTION AND THE OUTPOURING OF THE HOLY SPIRIT FOR THE SALVATION OF THE WORLD
- Exodus 12:1-8. 11-14;
- Psalm 115 (116):12-13. 15-18. R/ cf. 1 Corinthians 10:16;
- 1 Corinthians 11:23-26
- John 13:34; John 13:1-15
Tonight we celebrate Holy Thursday Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper. Tonight we begin the celebration of the Easter Triduum of Good Friday (death), Holy Saturday (burial) and Easter Sunday (resurrection). Our celebration will only end after the Easter Vigil. That is why there will be no dismissal after tonight’s Mass. Dismissal will only take place after the Easter Vigil. That is why you have to come also for the Good Friday service and the Easter Vigil. It is all one celebration of the Lord’s death and resurrection!
Tonight the Church asks us to commemorate three mysteries: (1) Institution of the Holy Eucharist (2) Institution of the priesthood (3) the command to love and serve.
The second reading is the most ancient written account on the institution of the Eucharist. It is even more ancient than the gospel accounts. The second reading tell us that on the night before his death, resurrection and the giving of the Holy Spirit for the salvation of the world, the Lord instituted the Eucharist in remembrance of him; remembrance not only in the sense of recalling the past, but more so to make the past present, real and effective. So much so that when we celebrate the Eucharist, we celebrate his death and resurrection, and we eat his body and drink his blood, and we receive the Holy Spirit for our salvation!
The second reading tells us that the Lord instituted the Eucharist by changing the bread into his body and by changing the wine into his blood. And when we eat the bread and drink the wine we are proclaiming his death until he comes again, that is, we are proclaiming his saving death, until his Second Coming when all will be saved!
In the institution of the Eucharist the Lord did four actions: (1) He took (bread) (2) He thanked (3) He broke (4) He gave. These are the four actions that we do tonight in the Eucharist. The Mass has two parts, that is, Word and Eucharist. In the Eucharist we (1) take (presentation of the gifts) (2) we thank (Eucharistic prayer) (3) we break (bread) (4) we give (Holy Communion). And when we eat his body and drink his blood, we receive his Holy Spirit for our salvation.
The four actions of the Lord can be simplified into two actions, that is, to thank and to give, that is, to thank God for the gift of life and to give our lives to others! In the gospel today the Lord thanked God the Father for the gift of life and gave his life to others in love and service!
It is important to note that the account of the institution of the Eucharist is found only in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, but not in the gospel of John! Instead of the institution of the Eucharist, the gospel of John has the “washing of feet” and the commandment to love and serve. For John this is the meaning and the effect of the Eucharist.
The gospel of John tonight tells us that Jesus loved his disciples, but on the night before he died, he showed that his love was perfect! When they were at supper, Jesus got up from the table, took off his outer garment, tied a towel round his waist, poured some water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet and wiping them with the towel.
And when he came to Peter, Peter refused his feet to be washed. How can a Master wash the feet of a disciple? How can a Lord wash the feet of a servant / slave? But Jesus told Peter that if he was not going to wash his feet he will have nothing to do with him. Peter then requested Jesus not only to wash his feet, but also to wash his hands and head. But Jesus replied that anyone who has taken a bath need not be washed, because he is clean all over.
Jesus was talking about baptism. (IBC; HCSB; Lefrois) In baptism Jesus washes away our sins with the waters of baptism, the waters of the Holy Spirit. Jesus is not only a servant, but Jesus is the Suffering Servant who loves and serves, suffers and sacrifices, in order to sanctify and save the world!
In the gospel acclamation before the gospel, Jesus tells us “I give you a new commandment: love one another just as I have loved you.” (Jn 13:34) At the end of the gospel Jesus tells us: “If I, then, the Lord and Master, have washed your feet, you should wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example so that you may copy what I have done to you.” (Jn 13:14-15)
In other words, we are to love and serve, to suffer and sacrifice, and to sanctify and save the world!
Another mystery that we commemorate tonight is the institution of the priesthood. Jesus instituted the priesthood so that we can celebrate the Eucharist every Sunday, so that we can eat his body and drink his blood and receive his Holy Spirit for our salvation; and so that we can love and serve, suffer and sacrifice in order to sanctify and save the whole world!
Why is there “no vocation” to the priesthood? “No vocation” means no call! Is it true that God does not call people to the priesthood? God always calls people to the priesthood! But there is no answer, no response, not “no vocation”, not no call! Tonight, let us pray that our young men may answer and respond to God’s call to the priesthood! We have a life-size statue of Saint John Vianney at our church door in order to inspire our young men to become priests!
We shall now do the “washing of the feet” just as the Lord did two thousand years ago!
A happy Easter Triduum to all of you! Amen!
Parish Priest of St Mary, Tawau, Sabah East Malaysia.