Reading 1 Ex 12:1-8, 11-14
Reading 2 1 Cor 11:23-26
Gospel Jn 13:1-15
Before the feast of Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to pass from this world to the Father. He loved his own in the world and he loved them to the end.
We begin the Sacred Triduum on this Holy Thursday and our readings reveal the entire significance of today’s feast. The first reading is a description of the Jewish Passover Meal. The Seder is a re-enactment of the meal taken by the Israelites before their flight from Egypt, a flight to freedom. This once a year commemoration is a sacred recall of God’s great act to liberate them from slavery and the beginning of their long journey to the Promised Land. And they were given the instruction "This day shall be a memorial feast for you, which all your generations shall celebrate with pilgrimage to the LORD, as a perpetual institution."
It is no coincidence then that it was at the celebration of this meal that Jesus instituted what we know as the Sacrament of the Eucharist. In the Second Reading, St. Paul recounts what Jesus did during that Last Supper, that Passover Meal. He took the bread at the table, broke it, shared it and said it was his Body. He took the cup of wine and said it was his Blood poured out for all of us. On this night Jesus united the Jewish Passover and the whole Paschal Mystery of his suffering, death and resurrection and links the bread and wine and its communal eating with the body and blood of Passover's sacrificial lamb. There is a new freedom, not just from institutional slavery, but from sin and evil. There is now a new Passover and the Lamb of God is Jesus, who takes away the sin of the world.
These actions also came with the instruction that they were to be repeated by his followers in his memory, thus at the same time he instituted the Eucharist he instituted the ministerial priesthood which we also celebrate today. No priests, no Mass. We should always be thankful for our priests.
In the Gospel today these words haunt me: "he loved his own in the world and he loved them to the end". It is truly a blessing to experience the love of a lifetime. In marriage discussions we tend to focus on the 40-48 percent divorce rate. It is an alarming failure rate and subject to much study but maybe we should spend more time looking at the 52-60 percent of marriages that last. At the core of lasting love is giving.
In today’s gospel we witness the extravagant love of Jesus who knelt in front of his disciples and one by one washed their feet. He knew that his hour had come to pass from this world and He, like Mary of Bethany, the sister of Lazarus, wanted to express his farewell in the tenderest of ways: humble service.
Theologian Romano Guardini says that "the attitude of our littleness bowing down in front of the great is not yet an attitude of humility. It is simply, an attitude to truth. But when the great bows down before our littleness that is true humility".
This is the true humility of Jesus Christ. He turns human values upside down and invites us to follow him and to build the kingdom of God based on loving service.
The Passover and the Eucharist would be meaningless if we don't see the love behind it: "Before the feast of Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to pass from this world to the Father. He loved his own in the end". We are his own whom he loves to the end and we need to love to the end.
Do this in memory of me: offer the sacrifice, celebrate the Eucharist, wash each others feet.
The Season of Lent is a special time for us to slow down, look inward and make the necessary changes to truly become an Easter people.