Thursday, 6 April 2023 : Holy Thursday, Mass of the Lord’s Supper (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today on this evening all of us are gathered together as the whole Church to commemorate the beginning of Easter or Paschal Triduum with this Mass of the Lord’s Supper, marking the moment when the Lord Jesus Christ had the last meal with His disciples just before the beginning of His Passion, which refers to His suffering and death. This night as we gather together as the Church, all of us remember that night when the Lord gathered His disciples to eat the Passover meal with them, and in that occasion, He also gave them the new mandate and commandment, which is why today is also known as Maundy Thursday, for this new ‘Mandatum’ that He told all of His disciples to do, to be servants and ministers of the people of God, and also to obey God’s will. In that same occasion therefore, the Lord instituted the Holy Eucharist and also the institution of priesthood.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of Exodus in which the account of the Exodus of the Israelites from the land of Egypt was read, and how the Lord instructed His people to have their very first Passover in the land of Egypt, marking the moment when the Lord brought His tenth and final plague against the Egyptians and their Pharaoh for their stubbornness and refusal to let the people of Israel go free. The Lord therefore sent His greatest plague upon the Egyptians, that He would kill all of their firstborn, from the Pharaoh’s firstborn right down to that of the lowest among the Egyptians. But the same plague of death did not affect the Israelites for God has ‘passed over’ them and their houses, because they followed the Lord’s instruction, for them to prepare an unblemished lamb, and then mark their houses with the blood from that slaughtered lamb, and which meat was eaten by the families on that Passover night.

We may wonder why this particular reading from the first Passover in Egypt was read as our first reading today, but this in fact highlighted the clear link and parallel between the original Passover that were celebrated each year afterwards as the Jewish Passover or the Seder, and the new Passover, our Christian Passover that superseded the old Passover, revealing the true intention of the Lord for us all. That is because just as the Lord has rescued His people Israel from their enslavement in the land of Egypt, from the hands of the Egyptians and their Pharaoh in the original Passover, and thus, the new, Christian Passover is the representation of God’s desire to rescue all of His people, and not just the Israelites, from the tyranny of sin, and from their enslavement to sin and death. The first Passover was the precursor and prefigurement of the Lord’s grand plan of salvation for all of us mankind.

If we look at the Passover of the Israelites, the Lord instructed them all to choose an unblemished young lamb to be slaughtered and then its blood to be painted upon the doors of their houses, to mark those houses so that the Angels of the Lord would ‘pass over’ them as they scourged the whole land of Egypt and destroyed all the firstborn of the Egyptians. In the same way therefore, the Lord has sent us all His own Son, to be the Paschal Lamb of sacrifice, the most worthy of all offerings and sacrifices, far surpassing the offering of worldly lambs and animals, and One Who is truly spotless and blameless, all perfection and good within Him. Then, just as the Passover lamb was kept and prepared and eventually slaughtered on the day of the Passover, the same thing happened to the Lord, the Paschal Lamb, Who embarked on His own Passover journey, becoming the One to be slaughtered and at the same time also as the One Who offered on behalf of everyone, the perfect and worthy offering to God.

In the Last Supper, as we heard from our second reading today, taken from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Church and the faithful in Corinth, we listened to how the Lord conducted the Passover meal in a most curious and distinct way. That Last Supper was indeed a Passover meal structured around the Jewish Passover, as it was mentioned that the Lord wanted to have a Passover meal with His disciples, but what is interesting is that, if we notice, unlike the central presence of the Passover lamb in the usual Jewish Passover, as we heard from our reading from the Book of Exodus, at the Last Supper, the Passover lamb was nowhere to be seen. Instead, the Lord Himself took the centre stage, and as He prayed and broke the bread over His disciples, He passed the bread to them while telling them that the bread is His Body, broken and shared for them to partake and eat. He did the same with the wine, which He passed to them as the chalice of His Blood, shared and outpoured for them to drink and partake as well.

Obviously, as we can see, the Lord Himself is the Paschal Lamb, Who was to be offered and slaughtered at the Altar of His Cross. However, at the time of the Last Supper, no one present except the Lord Himself could have understood what was happening. It was likely only afterwards that the Lord’s disciples realised everything that had happened, and how all that He had done at the Last Supper was a revelation of what He Himself would have to suffer on the next day after on Good Friday. Then, if we look upon the events of the Easter Triduum, what many of us might not have realised is that, everything that happened is one great liturgy and celebration, of the great Sacrifice that Our Lord offered on our behalf, as the Paschal Lamb, the Lamb of God, offered and slaughtered on the moment of His Passion at Calvary. His broken and shared Body and Blood, have been broken and outpoured for our salvation. That is why, the Church does not celebrate any Mass on Good Friday and Holy Saturday, with tonight’s Mass being the same sacrifice that encompass the whole of Easter Triduum.

Historically, the Last Supper was also known as an incomplete Passover, as according to the Jewish customs, there are four cups of wine that ought to be drunk at the occasion of the Passover. However, according to the Apostolic tradition, Scriptural and historical evidence, the Lord and some of His disciples, St. Peter, St. James and St. John left for the Gardens of Gethsemane, where the Lord Jesus prayed in agony in tears and sweat of Blood as He agonised over all the sufferings and hardships that He would have to endure very soon. But the Passover meal was not yet complete, and this is another hint that, what the Lord would have to go through in His Passion, is part of the whole entire Passover, the moment when He offered Himself, His Most Precious Body and His Most Precious Blood, for the salvation of all mankind, for the atonement and the reconciliation of all of us with God, His Heavenly Father, Who is our Lord, Master and Creator.

That is why, tonight, as all of us gather together to commemorate that night when the Lord embarked on His Passion, beginning with the final and most important phase in His mission to save all of us from eternal damnation and destruction, we are all reminded of God’s most amazing and enduring love for each and every one of us, which He has shown to us through His Son, Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. We remember that moment when the Lord instituted the Most Holy Eucharist, offering Himself, His own Most Precious Body and Most Precious Blood freely and willingly for our sake. By His sharing of His Body and Blood, and by our partaking in the Eucharist, the Lord has united us all to Himself, and by embracing us fully and wholeheartedly, taking up upon Himself all of our sins and faults, He has opened for us the gates of eternal life, freedom and liberation from the tyranny of sin and death. That is because if the blood of the Passover lamb had marked the Israelites as a people free from the enslavement and domination of the Egyptians, thus, all of us, who have been marked by the Blood of the Lamb of God, through the Eucharist, have received the mark from the Lord, the mark of salvation and freedom from sin.

Now, what all of us need to ask ourselves is that, do we heed what the Lord Himself has told His disciples, as we heard in our Gospel passage today. As we heard how the Lord humbled Himself and went to wash the feet of His disciples, the job usually done by slaves and servants, He has shown us all what each and every one of us as Christians should be doing in our lives. As those whom God had called and chosen from the darkness of this world, and freed from the tyranny of sin, all of us are called to a new existence, one that is blessed and graced by God. Tonight’s celebration is a reminder that as we enter into this most solemn and holy period in which we recall everything that God Himself had done for us, from His ever enduring and great love, all of us should dedicate ourselves to the Lord anew, to follow Him and obey Him, His Law and commandments just as He had told His disciples to do.

As He ‘mandated’ for them to do, all of us are called to live our lives worthily and virtuously as all Christians should, and each one of us are reminded that we should not seek personal glory and gratification, but instead be focused on the Lord and be like Him in how He loved His Father and each one of us, in His humility and commitment to us, so that all of us may also be like Him, and be good role models and examples of faith to one another. All of us have been given the great gift and grace from God Himself, Who has willingly offered and sacrificed Himself, as the Paschal Lamb, so that we may be fully and completely reconciled with God, and find the sure path to eternal life and true joy with Him. Let us all therefore discern these carefully, particularly as we enter into this Easter Triduum and deepen our focus on the Lord Jesus, His Passion, suffering and death on the Cross, all for our sake.

Let us all be exemplary in our way of life and resolutely reject sin and all of the wickedness found all around us, as the mark of our obedience and our adherence to the path that the Lord has shown us. If we truly believe in the Lord and have faith in Him, then naturally we should strive our best to be worthy of Him, to do what is right and just in accordance to what He Himself has shown and taught us to do. As Christians, we should not be people of empty or shallow faith, but we must really ‘walk the talk’, in being sincere in loving God and in loving our fellow brothers and sisters, and in doing what God had told us to do. The mandatum or commandment that He has given to us is a reminder that each and every one of us as members of God’s Church have particular responsibilities and calling in our own lives, to do what we can so that we may inspire more and more people to come to believe in God as well, because they have seen God and His truth in us, in our actions and way of living. This is what we are reminded today, on this Holy Thursday evening, as we embark into the Easter Triduum and the culmination of our Lenten exercise and observance.

May the Lord, our most loving God and Saviour continue to be with us, guiding us and strengthening us in our journey of faith, so that our every experiences and moments, especially during this Holy Week and Easter Triduum, be most enriching and inspirational, in allowing us to come ever closer to Him and to His salvation. May God be with us always and may He bless our days, our Easter Triduum, the upcoming Easter season and our lives beyond. May He bless our every good efforts and endeavours, and bless our loved ones all around us. Wishing all of us a most blessed Easter Triduum, brothers and sisters in Christ. Amen.

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