Thursday, 29 March 2018 : Mass of the Lord’s Supper, Holy Thursday (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we begin the three most important and solemn days of celebration in the entire liturgical year, that is the Easter Triduum. This is because all the events that are commemorated every year between this Holy Thursday evening until the morning of Easter Sunday are all linked together as one whole event, of the Passion, suffering, death and eventually glorious resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

On this day we commemorate together the beginning of the most pivotal moments in our human history and existence, beginning with the Last Supper which the Lord Jesus had with His disciples on the night before He was to suffer and die on the cross, betrayed by one of His own closest disciples, Judas Iscariot. On that night, the Lord Jesus celebrated the Jewish Passover, which was mentioned in our first reading passage today, as the celebration of the liberation of the people of Israel from the hands of the Egyptians.

The Jewish Passover is the most important feast of the entire Jewish calendar, and the most pivotal moment in the history of God’s people, the Israelites. At that time, the people of Israel, the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were persecuted and enslaved in Egypt, and faced even extermination by the hands of their slavemasters. The Egyptian king, the Pharaoh even ordered the killing of all newborn male babies of the Israelites to exterminate them.

God saved His beloved people by sending to them deliverance through His servant Moses, and sending ten great plagues against the Egyptians and their king, the Pharaoh. When the Pharaoh hardened his heart and refused to let the Israelites go, again and again, the ten plagues bore down hard on the Egyptians, that they even begged their king to let the Israelites go free.

Eventually, the Lord sent the last and the greatest of all among the ten plagues, the death of all the firstborn child of the Egyptians, from the Pharaoh’s child to the lowest among the Egyptians, from all the men to all the animals and beasts of the Egyptians alike. It affected everyone and every animals in the land of Egypt, but passing over the houses of the Israelites, hence the term of the celebration as the ‘Passover’.

The Lord passed over the houses of the Israelites because He has instructed Moses, His servant, to tell the people to choose a young and unblemished lamb, to be kept for a certain period of days, before it was slaughtered for the feast of the Passover. The blood of the lamb was collected and then used to mark the doorposts of the houses of the Lord’s people. The Lord saw the mark of the blood of the Passover lamb, and passed over the house. The lamb meat itself was roasted over the fire and eaten during the Passover.

As we remember this very first Passover, which the Lord instructed His people to keep year after year, and at all times, we can see great parallel and rich symbolism with what the Lord has done at that Last Supper He had with His disciples, as that meal is also a Passover meal like that of the old Jewish Passover which commemorated the liberation of God’s people from the slavery they suffered in Egypt.

But in that Last Supper, the Lord did things very differently, though in parallel with the original Jewish Passover. First of all, the Last Supper did not feature any lamb eaten during the meal, unlike the original Passover. Why is this so? That is because Our Lord Himself, the Paschal Lamb, is the Lamb to be sacrificed on the Altar of Calvary. And the shedding of His own Body and Blood, parallel to the use and purpose of the lamb in the original Passover, has become the source of our own salvation.

Thus, whatever we commemorate in the Last Supper, cannot be separated or distinguished from what we commemorate tomorrow on Good Friday, for all the things that happened at the Last Supper is united to the loving sacrifice of the Lord on the cross. Without the cross, then the Last Supper and all that the Lord has said in that event would not have a complete meaning, and vice versa, without the Last Supper and the institution of the Eucharist, then the Lord’s sacrifice on the cross is not complete either.

At the Last Supper, the Lord took up the bread, and blessed it, and then, gave it to His disciples, saying that it is His Body, given up to all of them to eat. Then He also passed around the wine He blessed, which He said that it is His Blood, poured out for all the people as the atonement for their sins. While the people of Israel were enslaved in the body to the Egyptians at that time, but all of us, the Israelites included, have been enslaved to our sins.

That is why, even though the Israelites were freed from their bondage in Egypt, but after that, as they journeyed through the desert, they disobeyed God and sinned against Him, and then they perished. They perished because death is the just consequence and punishment for sin, and all of us have sinned and thus deserving death. Sin is the greatest of all plagues and sicknesses, which claimed everything it touched and corrupted everything it was present in.

But God, through His great love for us, did everything He could in order to save us, by none other than the giving of His own beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, to be the Paschal Lamb of sacrifice for us all. As the doorposts of the houses of the Israelites have been marked by the blood of the Passover lamb and death passed over it, so has the Blood of Christ, which we receive into us, marking us as God’s own beloved ones, made death and damnation in hell to pass over us.

This is the Christian Passover, the new and everlasting Covenant God made with each and every one of us. And this can only happen if each one of us truly receive from God, the gift of His own Body and Blood, in the Most Holy Eucharist that we partake in the Mass. That is why on this occasion when we celebrate the Last Supper, we also celebrate the Institution of the Sacrament of the Eucharist as well as the Holy Orders of Christian priesthood.

Why is that so? That is because Jesus made it very clear when He said it, that the bread He gave to the disciples, is not a symbol, or a representation, or an image, or a memorial or a mere substitute for His Body, but it is His Body, real in the flesh, though in our eyes it appears as a mere, lowly bread. The bread, by the power of Our Lord Himself, has been made in existence and substance, the essence and material of His own Body, and the same with the wine, made to be the essence and material of His Precious Blood.

And to His disciples, the Lord has given the same authority, to bring unto us His faithful ones, the same Body and Blood that Our Lord has offered as a willing sacrifice on the cross, by transforming in matter and existence, the bread and wine offered in the Holy Mass, to become His Real and Most Holy Presence, that we partake and therefore all of us share in the glory and eternal life He has promised us all His faithful ones.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we proceed on through the Easter Triduum, we are moving on towards the suffering and death of Our Lord on the cross, which will be celebrated tomorrow on Good Friday. Let us all appreciate and understand even more, just how much that God loves us, to the point that He gave us everything He could, and did the best He could, even to the point of death on the cross, just so that we may be saved.

Let us all spend time with the Lord tonight, by remembering what He has said to His disciples, that while the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. Let us grow ever more devoted to God, and spend time with Him, so that we may appreciate ever more how God is ever present in our lives, and by receiving Him in the Real Presence in the Eucharist, He now dwells in us, making us His holy Temple. Turn away from sin and be righteous from now on.

May God be with us all, be with His Church, and also especially with our priests and bishops, to whom He has entrusted the governance and guidance over His Church. Let us pray fervently and help one another, together as members of God’s Church, striving to live earnestly and faithfully in all things. May the Lord be with us always and bless us forevermore. Amen.

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