Liturgical Colour : White
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this night celebration of the Holy Mass, the whole Church celebrates together the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, the commemoration of the Last Supper during which time the Lord instituted the Holy Eucharist, and told His disciples to commemorate it in His memory. This night is very important as it was the moment when the Lord began the journey of His Passion that ended only on the glorious Resurrection at Easter. Hence, that is why we celebrate them together in the Easter Triduum beginning tonight right up to Easter Sunday of Our Lord’s Resurrection.
This night we remember that night when the Lord had His Last Supper with His disciples when He broke the bread with them and shared to them the bread which He spoke to them is His Body, given to them freely, and also shared the cup of wine that He had blessed, the wine that has turned into His Most Precious Blood. It was at the Last Supper that the Lord revealed what He was going to do in order to bring about the salvation of the whole world, by His Passion, His suffering, death on the Cross and resurrection, through which He would lead us into the new life of true happiness and joy.
In our first reading today, we heard of the account from the Book of Exodus recounting to us of the pivotal moment in the history of the salvation of God’s people, when God was finally about to lead His people, the Israelites out from their enslavement in Egypt. Up to that moment, God had sent nine great plagues against Egypt and its people because of their stubborn refusal to let the Israelites go free after enslaving them and treating them badly without dignity and respect for them, after exploiting them and trying to eliminate them as a people and nation. The Lord was about to bring one last, greatest plague that would free the people at last.
And that plague was the death of all the firstborn sons of the Egyptians, every one of them in the land of Egypt except for the ones whom God would mark and then ‘passed over’. Thus, God gave Moses and Aaron the very specific instructions on what they were to do, in preparing for the very first Passover, the original Passover in the land of Egypt. In particular, the people of Israel were told to prepare and set aside a young, unblemished lamb for sacrifice and to be consumed together as family or group of families together on the night of the Passover.
How is this significant for us, brothers and sisters in Christ? It is significant because what happened at the original Passover is exactly what was taking place at the Last Supper as well. The Lord was telling His disciples with the message when He asked them to get ready the place for the Last Supper with the words asking where they would have their Passover meal. Therefore, the Last Supper was indeed the same Passover that the descendants of the Israelites have always commemorated every year. However, we should notice that there is something very different in the Last Supper versus the usual Passover celebrations.
And that is the lack of the centrepiece of the Passover meal, which is the sacrificed lamb. Why is that so? That is because Christ Himself, is the Lamb Who was to be sacrificed and offered to God, and He is the centrepiece of the Passover at the Last Supper, representing the new Passover and the New Covenant that He was to establish with everything that took place between the Last Supper and His death on the Cross. For first of all, we must understand that the Last Supper did not actually end on the Last Supper on that night itself, but in fact continued on right up to the last moments of the Lord on the Cross.
Remember that Christ instituted the Holy Eucharist at the Last Supper? The bread that He blessed and broke, and shared with the disciples had turned into His own Most Precious Body, not just in symbolic manner but in real substance and nature, and while it may still appear as bread and taste as bread, but that bread has fundamentally been changed into the very essence of God and His Presence, His own Body, to be broken, shared and given up to us. The same happened to the wine as well, which had become the Most Precious Blood, in all substance and nature, shed and poured down to us to share and drink.
Christ, Our Lord and Saviour is the Lamb of God, the perfect sacrificial Lamb Who had allowed Himself to be led to the slaughter, to be the One to both offer and complete the worthy sacrifice for the sake of all of us. That just as how the ancient Passover led the people of God free from their slavery in Egypt, thus, through Christ’s new Passover, the Holy Eucharist, He is bringing all of us mankind, His beloved children, to the freedom from the slavery under sin and death. The Lord is bringing us into the joy of eternal life that He has always intended for us to enjoy, which had been denied to us due to our own disobedience and sins.
And by His Blood we have been marked much as the people of Israel had been saved by the mark of the lamb’s blood on the lintels of their doors, marking them as the houses of the righteous that the Angels of Death passed over and did not harm. That is yet another way how the ancient Passover and the New Passover are so symbolically similar to each other. Therefore, by the Blood of the Lamb of God, we have been marked as His own, and as those who are deserving of life and not death and destruction. Just as the Israelites had been passed over from death, we too share in the new life that God has brought us.
Then, why did I mention that the Last Supper was not yet completed on that very night? That is because if we pay attention carefully, the Last Supper actually took place before the date of the actual Passover, which happened on the day of the Sabbath, after the Lord’s death on Good Friday. If we see the chronology of events carefully, we will see that the day that the Lord died on the Cross marked the day before the Passover day, the day when the Passover lamb was slaughtered and sacrificed, had its blood poured so that on the day of the Passover, the blood of the lamb saved the people from destruction and death.
Hence, in the same manner, by the Blood of the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour, poured forth from His Cross, as He laid dying between the heaven and the earth, the slain Lamb of God, all of us are marked for salvation and eternal life, all of us who believe in Him and put our faith in Him receive from Him the assurance of true joy and happiness with Him and through Him. The offering and sacrifice begun on the Last Supper is completed on the Cross at Good Friday, which was marked by the Lord’s own words on the Cross, ‘It is accomplished.’
That is why, at every celebration of the Holy Mass, we are actually commemorating again the very same sacrifice and offering made by the Lord on His Cross at Calvary. At every Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the priests, by the faculty and authority granted to them by the Lord, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, received by them through the Apostles, those same Apostles to whom the Lord entrusted the Eucharist, changed the bread and wine into the essence, substance and reality of Our Lord’s own Most Precious Body and Blood. They may still retain the appearance of bread and wine, but in truth, they are no longer just bread and wine.
And that is the centre of our faith, brothers and sisters in Christ, that in the doctrine of Transubstantiation, we believe that in the Holy Mass, the bread and wine has been completely transformed barring their appearance, into the Most Precious Body and Blood of Our Lord Himself, the Holy Eucharist. That is why today we celebrate the Institution of this great Sacrament, by which God made Himself available for us. And we remember Him, our Bread of Life, Who have shared with us this same Precious Body and Blood, that as He Himself said, that whoever partake of Him, shall have eternal life.
That is why, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we remember the Last Supper in today’s Mass, we also prepare ourselves for the events surrounding Our Lord’s crucifixion and death which we shall celebrate tomorrow on Good Friday. The two events cannot be separated from each other, and tonight, as we enter into the Liturgy of the Eucharist, we should really appreciate the importance of the Eucharist even more if we have not yet done so, realising that the Eucharist is the pinnacle of our worship and also the same sacrifice of Our Lord that began on the Last Supper and continuing all throughout the events of Good Friday up to the Lord’s death on the Cross. On the Altar, are the same Precious Body and Blood of the Lamb of God, that had been slain and sacrificed for us.
These were all the things that God had done for us, with such love that He willingly braved even the worst of sufferings and death for our sake. And as we heard in the Gospel passage today, He has shown us true humility of humbling Himself and wearing the clothes of a slave, to wipe the feet of His own disciples, an act performed only by slaves. He made Himself like a slave, just like how He has humbly accepted His Cross, to be treated worse that a slave, as a criminal and to be humiliated and rejected, all so that by His obedience, He may save us from our sins and from the certainty of death.
He told His disciples to do the same as He had done, to love one another and to serve each other with love to the best of our abilities. This is our Christian calling, to be the true disciples of Christ in all things, but in particular in reaching out to our fellow brothers and sisters with genuine love and care, in putting others and their needs before ourselves and our selfish desires. We are all called to remember this, how the Lord has done all for our sake and how He even humbled Himself for our sake. He died for us out of love and to save us from the depth of darkness. Are we able to emulate that same love in us too, brothers and sisters?
As we enter into this celebration of the Easter Triduum, let us all immerse ourselves deeply in the events surrounding Our Lord’s Passion, His suffering and death, and strive to love Him ever more and to live our lives ever more in accordance with His truth. Let us focus our attention on Him and spend good and precious quality time with Him as we commemorate these important events in the history of our salvation. May God, our most loving Lord and Creator, be with us in our journey of faith and help us to make our Easter Triduum journey a most blessed and fruitful one. Amen.