Holy Thursday – Mass of the Lord’s Supper – Option 1 – Jn 13:1-15
Tonight, as we begin the Easter triduum, we are reminded that salvation history finds its culmination in what we will celebrate over the next three days. All of the laws of the Old Testament, in a particular way those regarding the sacrifices and the Passover lamb, and all of the prophets, looked forward and pointed to these events, and thousands of years before they took place, the holy men and women of the world looked forward to the moment when God would bring forth salvation. That moment had been sought after ever since the fall, when our first parents heard the evil one being told “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; they will strike at your head, while you strike at their heel.” It was a promise that God made as soon as we fell: evil might seem to have the upper hand, but there would come a time when its power would be broken.
The Gospel we just heard sets the stage for what we are about to celebrate: John tells us that “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.” The reason for all of this, for His suffering and death, is Christ’s love for us, a love that knows no limits, that loves until the end, until the last drop of His blood is shed.
Jesus, “fully aware that the Father had put everything into his power and that he had come from God and was returning to God,” washed His disciples’ feet. Here we see more of the mystery: Jesus, who is all-knowing and all-powerful, comes to earth to do His Father’s will: He comes to suffer and to die for us, precisely in order to show us His love.
There are two ways in particular that Jesus shows His love for us on this night: He leaves us both the Eucharist and the priesthood. Both continue His saving presence among us.
First, Jesus shows us His love by leaving us the Eucharist. The Eucharist provides us with the food we need for our journey, and is the very Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ, brought down to earth, hidden under the appearances of bread and wine, in order to be with us and to help us in our needs. Christ promises His disciples, “I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you,” and the Eucharist is how He keeps that promise. As Saint Teresa of Calcutta said, “In an ever-changing world, the Holy Eucharist is a constant reminder of God’s unchanging love for us.” We could add, in an ever-changing world, a world with problems, with sadness, with challenges and disappointments, the Eucharist reminds us that Christ loves us to the end, to lay down His life for us, and He would do it again and again if He could. That is the love we find in the Eucharist.
The second great gift of Christ’s love given tonight is the priesthood. “The priesthood is the love of the heart of Jesus” as Saint John Vianney would say. We might think that those who lived in Christ’s time were luckier than we are, because they had Jesus to forgive their sins, to heal their ills, to bless them, and to walk among them. Yet, Christ gives us priests to forgive our sins, anoint our illness, bless children, marriages, and to give all that we need. Christ continues to be among us through His priests, and that, too, is a great sign of His love.
As we begin the solemn Easter Triduum, we can ask ourselves about how we see the events that will take place: do we see everything like spectators, watching a sporting event? Or do we realize that what is taking place is none other than Christ dying for me, to pay for my sins, to show His love for me? We must allow ourselves to enter into the celebrations, and thus experience them as something personal, something for me. Let us ask for this grace through the intercession of Mary, Our Lady of Sorrows.