Liturgical Colour : White
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this evening we celebrate the Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper, marking the beginning of the most solemn and sacred time of the Easter Triduum, the three sacred days during which the climax of the Lord’s salvific mission took place, as He passed through His Passion, the suffering, the pains and sorrows, the trials and scourges, to His nailing and death on the Cross, and finally, on the third day, He rose gloriously from the dead, conquering death itself and overthrowing the bondage of sin from mankind by His Resurrection.
Tonight, we recall the beginning of that Passion of the Lord by commemorating the Last Supper that the Lord had with His disciples, just before He was about to be arrested, condemned, humiliated and scourged, then finally suffer and die for all mankind. In the Last Supper which we commemorate today, there are truly very significant things that we ought to pay attention to, as we recall what happened that night in Jerusalem about two millennia ago.
That night, on the time of preparation for the Passover, the Lord chose to have the Passover meal with His disciples just as how all the Jewish people, the descendants of the Israelites have been celebrating the Passover ever since the first Passover in Egypt. The Passover was truly the most important event in the entire year, remembering the very moment that God Himself saved His people from death, intervening for the last time in the Ten Plagues He inflicted on the Egyptians, and with that last blow, He removed from His people the chains of tyranny and slavery.
Following that tradition, the Lord had the Passover with His disciples on the date He has chosen, and at a place He has shown His disciples, where He began the Passover meal that would change the world forever. For at that very moment, the Lord made a new Passover that was no longer about the old moment when He rescued the Israelites from their enslavement in Egypt, but a new Passover which is the salvation of all mankind from their enslavement to sin. God would rescue all of His people from the tyranny of sin and lead them to freedom.
And in all these, the Lord’s role is central, as if we see the parallel between the old Passover and the new Passover, what is notable is that, while in the old Passover, the centrepiece is the lamb, pure and blameless was prepared, set aside and slaughtered, its blood taken up and used to mark the lintels of the doors of the Israelites’ houses, while its flesh was roasted on fire and eaten up on the night of the Passover by the whole people of Israel, in the new Passover, there was no lamb in the same traditional sense.
Instead, the Lord Himself is the Sacrificial Lamb, the Lamb of God and our Paschal Lamb, as shown how the centrepiece of the entire Last Supper, the beginning of the New Passover is the Lord Himself, offering His own Precious Body and Precious Blood in the bread and wine that He has blessed and offered, given to the disciples to share and eat. And when He has blessed the bread, He said, ‘This is My Body, given up for you’, and the wine, ‘This is the cup of My Blood, the Blood of the New Covenant, poured out for many, for the forgiveness of sins’.
The Lord would then go on to complete this at Good Friday, the offering of His sacrifice that began at the Last Supper. As He later on would take up His Cross, bloodied and bruised, wounded and in pain for our sins, He is that sacrificial Lamb, by Whose Blood we have been redeemed, and at the same time, He is also the High Priest offering the gift of sacrifice, as a worthy offering for the redemption of all. In this case, what He offered was Himself, His own Precious Blood, which alone is worthy to redeem us all, unlike the blood of mere lambs, which though pure and blameless, cannot be compared to the Lamb of God.
And do we all realise that the whole Liturgy of the Eucharist at each celebration of the Holy Mass is the journey of the Lord’s Passion, from the night of the Last Supper right up to the crucifixion and death of Our Lord? When the Lord Jesus lay dying on the Cross, He said a very important phrase that we often overlook, namely ‘It is finished’. Through those words, the Lord wants us to know that His offering as the Paschal Lamb has been completed, and right after that, He said, ‘Father, into Your hands I commend My Spirit’, completing the New Covenant that He established with us through His suffering and death, sealed by His Blood.
Thus, the Lord instituted on that very night the Holy Eucharist, the Holy Mass as we know it today, the celebration of the Divine Liturgy our brethren in the Eastern traditions. For that night, He offered the bread and wine that He has transformed into the very essence and reality of His own Body and Blood, shared and taken up by all the disciples, that they are all part of the new Communion of the faithful. Just as the Israelites of old partake at the table and be sharers of the Covenant of God sealed with the blood of the lamb, thus the disciples became the first partakers and sharers of the New Covenant sealed by the Lord with His own Blood.
And that very night, the Lord instituted the Holy Eucharist, thus the Holy Mass came to be that very moment of the Last Supper, and the Lord authorised His disciples with the power and authority to do what He Himself had done, consecrating them to be the priests of His New Covenant and Church. That is why, from that moment on, the Apostles have the power and authority to turn the bread and wine into the same Precious Body and Blood of Our Lord, remembering the commandment the Lord spoke of, to ‘do this in the memory of Me’
Brothers and sisters in Christ, tonight as we recall that very first night when the Lord instituted the Holy Eucharist on the Last Supper, we are called to reflect on the great and wonderful love that God has for each and every one of us, that He wants to rescue us all from the depth of our troubles and misery, offering Himself as the Lamb of sacrifice, to be crushed and destroyed for our sake, bruised, wounded and crucified for us, to die in our place so that we may be delivered from eternal death and into the everlasting life.
As we enter into this mystery of the Easter Triduum, all the solemn celebrations and moments we are going to have up to the celebration of the Resurrection on Easter Sunday, let us all keep ourselves focused on the Lord, our Saviour and Crucified Messiah, Who have allowed Himself to take up the condition of a slave and the punishments for us. Let us all remember just how much He has endured for our sake. If we have had a difficult and challenging time this year and the past year due to the pandemic, its effects and other reasons, then do not forget that the Lord is enduring all those together with us.
We are never alone, brothers and sisters in Christ, for by sharing and partaking in His Body and Blood through the Eucharist, all of us have shared in His humanity and His death, and having been marked by His Blood just as the Israelites had their houses marked with the lamb’s blood, they had been passed over from death. Thus, in the same way, united to Christ, we have gone through the death of our past selves, and enter into a new existence as Christians, as those whom God had called and chosen, to be His own people, and share in the glorious Resurrection into a new life of grace.
The Lord is journeying with us together through these difficult moments, and by what He has done in the Gospel today, as He came to serve the disciples by washing their feet, a job usually done by a servant or slave, He wants us all to journey together as one people and one Church, all hand in hand together, serving one another and showing care and concern for one another. What the Lord had mandated His disciples to do was to do what He had taught and shown them to do, and it is to show love and concern towards our fellow brethren.
Let us all therefore play our active parts as Christians, called and chosen to be the Lord’s disciples and followers, that in our every words, deeds and actions, we will always show Christian love and faith, showing love for our fellow brothers and sisters, all sharing in this same Communion and in the same New Covenant that God has established through Christ, all of us the members of this same One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.
From now on, let us renew our faith in the Lord and learn to appreciate the Holy Mass and particularly the wonderful gift of the Holy Eucharist, Our Lord’s own Most Precious Body and Blood, which He had shed and poured out of love for us, for our salvation. And as we enter into this most solemn and sacred Easter Triduum let us all commit ourselves and our time to the Lord, refocusing our attention to Him, and reflecting on all that He had done for us, all the love that He has shown us, and how fortunate we all have been to be beloved in such a manner.
May God be with us always, brothers and sisters in Christ, and may He strengthen us especially through the Easter Triduum that we may grow ever stronger in faith and commitment to Him, and also in our belief and devotion to the Holy Eucharist, to Our Lord’s Most Holy and Precious Body and Blood, as the centrepoint of every celebration of the Holy Mass and Divine worship. May He guide us all, through these solemn and holy days, that we may benefit most wonderfully from the experience of faith. May God bless us all, now and always. Amen.