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.

Thursday, 29 March 2018 : Mass of the Lord’s Supper, Holy Thursday (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 13 : 1-15

At that time, it was before the feast of the Passover. Jesus realised that His hour had come, to pass from this world to the Father; and as He had loved those who were His own in the world, He would love them with perfect love.

They were at supper, and the devil had already put into the mind of Judas, son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Him. Jesus knew that the Father had entrusted all things to Him, and as He had come from God, He was going to God. So He got up from the table, removed His garment, and taking a towel, wrapped it around His waist. Then He poured water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel He was wearing.

When He came to Simon Peter, Simon asked Him, “Why, Lord, do You want to wash my feet?” Jesus said, “What I am doing you cannot understand now, but afterwards you will understand it.” Peter replied, “You shall never wash my feet!” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you can have no part with Me.”

Then Simon Peter said, “Lord, wash not only my feet, but also my hands and my head!” Jesus replied, “Whoever has taken a bath does not need to wash (except the feet), for he is clean all over. You are clean, though not all of you.” Jesus knew who was to betray Him; because of this He said, “Not all of you are clean.”

When Jesus had finished washing their feet, He put on His garment again, went back to the table, and said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call Me Master and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I, then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet, you also must wash one another’s feet. I have just given you an example, that as I have done, you also may do.”

Thursday, 29 March 2018 : Mass of the Lord’s Supper, Holy Thursday (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

1 Corinthians 11 : 23-26

This is the tradition of the Lord that I received and that in my turn I have handed on to you; the Lord Jesus, on the night that He was delivered up, took bread and, after giving thanks, broke it, saying, “This is My Body which is broken for you; do this in memory of Me.”

In the same manner, taking the cup after the supper, He said, “This cup is the new Covenant in My Blood. Whenever you drink it, do it in memory of Me.” So, then, whenever you eat of this bread and drink from this cup, you are proclaiming the death of the Lord until He comes.

Thursday, 29 March 2018 : Mass of the Lord’s Supper, Holy Thursday (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 115 : 12-13, 15 and 16bc, 17-18

How can I repay the Lord for all His goodness to Me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the Name of the Lord.

It is painful to the Lord to see the death of His faithful. Truly Your servant, Your handmaid’s Son. You have freed Me from My bonds.

I will offer You a thanksgiving sacrifice; I will call on the Name of the Lord. I will carry out My vows to the Lord in the presence of His people.

Thursday, 29 March 2018 : Mass of the Lord’s Supper, Holy Thursday (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Exodus 12 : 1-8, 11-14

YHVH spoke to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt and said, “This month is to be the beginning of all months, the first month of your year. Speak to the community of Israel and say to them : On the tenth day of this month let each family take a lamb, a lamb for each house. If the family is too small for a lamb, they must join with a neighbour, the nearest to the house, according to the number of persons, and to what each one can eat.”

“You will select a perfect lamb without blemish, a male born during the present year, taken from the sheep or goats. Then you will keep it until the fourteenth day of the month. On that evening all the people will slaughter their lambs and take some of the blood to put on the doorposts and on top of the doorframes of the houses where you eat. That night you will eat the flesh roasted at the fire with unleavened bread and bitter herbs.”

“And this is how you will eat : with a belt round your waist, sandals on your feet and a staff in your hand. You shall eat hastily for it is a Passover in honour of YHVH. On that night I shall go through Egypt and strike every firstborn in Egypt, men and animals; and I will even bring judgment on all of the gods of Egypt, I, YHVH! The blood on your houses will be the sign that you are there. I will see the blood and pass over you; and you will escape the mortal plague when I strike Egypt.”

“This is a day you are to remember and celebrate in honour of YHVH. It is to be kept as a festival day for all generations forever.”

(Holy Week) Thursday, 13 April 2017 : Holy Thursday, Mass of the Lord’s Supper (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we begin the three days of the holiest moments in the whole liturgical year, the Easter Triduum, celebrating the centrepiece of our faith, beginning with today when we celebrate the occasion of Maundy or Holy Thursday, the Last Supper which the Lord Jesus had with His disciples on the night before He suffered and died, and then tomorrow’s Good Friday, commemorating the moment when Jesus died on the cross, and finally the Easter Vigil celebrations, on the triumph of the Risen Christ over sin and death.

Today therefore we begin that very solemn occasion, the time when the Lord began His Passion, the time of the fulfilment of His earthly ministry, the time when He completed the journey He started, in bringing all the people of God back to the embrace of God, and in declaring to all of them the Good News of God. On this day we also mark the time when He revealed to all the ultimate gift which He had given to all of us mankind, that is the gift of none other than that of His own Body and Blood, the Body and Blood of the Lamb of God, the ultimate sacrifice for the sake of our sins.

For the Lord had His Last Supper with His disciples as we celebrate the occasion this evening, in the imitation and indeed perfection of the original Jewish Passover feast, which was celebrated year after year as the most important of all feasts and festivals, because on that day, God showed forth His might and power, in order to bring His enslaved people out of the tyranny and slavery in Egypt. Even though they had been marked for death by the Pharaoh, but God provided for them salvation beyond even their despair.

God made them to keep a young lamb without blemish, to be slaughtered on the time He had appointed to them. That was the very first Passover, the time when the Israelites slaughtered the lamb and used its blood to mark their houses, by putting it on their houses, on the lintels and doorposts, so that when God sent His Angels to scour through the whole Egypt, to kill the firstborn sons of Egypt, the sons of Israel would not be harmed and thus would be ‘passed over’.

And thus, by His grace and by His power, God had liberated His people through the pouring of the blood of the lamb of sacrifice, the unblemished lamb which was slaughtered, and consumed by the Israelites together with the unleavened bread, during the very first Passover. Ever since, the people of Israel continued to remember that important event, by repeating it again and again, year after year, to remember the moment that God brought them all to freedom.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, what the Lord Jesus had done on that day, the Last Supper which He had with His disciples was also a Passover meal, the new Passover which Jesus instituted that very night and which today we remember, as well as at every time we celebrate the Holy Mass. That is because, just as the Egyptians enslaved the Israelites and made them to suffer, all of us mankind had also been enslaved by sin, and sin is what the Lord was liberating us all from, as He went forth through His Passion and ultimately, death.

And this time, God also brought forth a lamb of sacrifice, a worthy lamb, and a spotless and unblemished lamb. However, unlike any earthly lambs, which blood could do nothing more than temporary respite and absolution from sin, which the priests ever since the time of Aaron and his sons would need to continue to offer and sacrifice again and again, on that day, that night of the Last Supper, Christ Himself is the Lamb, the Lamb of God.

Agnus Dei, the Lamb of God, as we always remember saying during the Holy Mass, as the One Who takes away the sins of the world. He gave His disciples His own Body, through the bread He blessed and broke, and then His own Blood, by the blessed wine He had passed to them. And God therefore had redeemed and liberated His people by the offering of the Blood of the Lamb, which we all have received and shared, and by that mark of our faith, we have been ‘passed over’ from our fate of eternal death and damnation.

We should have perished and be damned for eternity for our sins, for all the wickedness that we have committed in life. And yet, because we have our Lord and Master Who did not give up on us, and Who in fact willingly sought to forgive us and redeem us from our sins, we have a new hope and the opportunity of having a new life in Him, abandoning our past ways of sin and embracing a new life blessed and filled with the grace of God.

Jesus is our High Priest, Who had come upon us, offering Himself as the perfect sacrifice for the oblation and for the forgiveness of our sins. On all those who are willing to accept God’s forgiveness, He has offered all of them, the direct pathway to salvation. He has, once and for all, by offering His Body and Blood as the Lamb of sacrifice on the cross at Calvary, redeemed the whole race of mankind from the taints of their sins.

And what is important is that, through His disciples, Jesus our Lord had passed on and continued that sacred priesthood by what He had done and commanded them to do on the night of that Last Supper. Jesus washed the hands of His disciples, and told them all to do the same. And He also, while breaking up the bread and passing the wine around, commanded the disciples to do the same as what He had done at that time.

In essence, at that occasion, Jesus instituted the priesthood of the Church, which He Himself had established, and gave them the authority to be in persona Christi, that is in the person of Christ, acting on His behalf as the priests celebrate the Holy Mass, transforming the offering of bread and wine, into the real and true Holy Presence of our God, Body and Blood in the Eucharist.

Therefore, today we remember our priests and bishops, and all those who have consecrated themselves to God through holy ordination. We pray for all of them, and ask God to strengthen each and every one of them, so that through the difficult challenges and troubles that often await them on their path, they may continue to persevere and remain strong amidst all of those obstacles. Let us pray that they may continue to dedicate and serve the people of God, in the same manner as Christ had loved and served His people.

Let us all also remember the sacrifice by which Christ had lovingly protected ourselves and brought us all from the brink of annihilation into a new hope, by establishing a new Covenant with us sealed with none other than His Most Precious Blood. Let us all remember that we were once enslaved to sin, and by God’s grace we have been given the forgiveness and reconciliation which many of us are seeking for.

Let us ponder and reflect on all these, as we progress through our celebration of the Easter Triduum occasions, and let us all prepare our hearts and minds, to remember the Passion and death of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who gave Himself willingly as our sacrifice instead of ourselves, that all of us may live. May the Lord be with us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

(Holy Week) Thursday, 13 April 2017 : Holy Thursday, Mass of the Lord’s Supper (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White
John 13 : 1-15

At that time, it was before the feast of the Passover. Jesus realised that His hour had come, to pass from this world to the Father; and as He had loved those who were His own in the world, He would love them with perfect love.

They were at supper, and the devil had already put into the mind of Judas, son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Him. Jesus knew that the Father had entrusted all things to Him, and as He had come from God, He was going to God. So He got up from the table, removed His garment, and taking a towel, wrapped it around His waist. Then He poured water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel He was wearing.

When He came to Simon Peter, Simon asked Him, “Why, Lord, do You want to wash my feet?” Jesus said, “What I am doing you cannot understand now, but afterwards you will understand it.” Peter replied, “You shall never wash my feet!” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you can have no part with Me.”

Then Simon Peter said, “Lord, wash not only my feet, but also my hands and my head!” Jesus replied, “Whoever has taken a bath does not need to wash (except the feet), for he is clean all over. You are clean, though not all of you.” Jesus knew who was to betray Him; because of this He said, “Not all of you are clean.”

When Jesus had finished washing their feet, He put on His garment again, went back to the table, and said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call Me Master and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I, then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet, you also must wash one another’s feet. I have just given you an example, that as I have done, you also may do.”