Exodus 12:1-8,11-14; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26; John 13:1-15
Bro. S Jerald (MPC)
Dear brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ, today let us reflect on the Last Meal which Jesus shared with his disciples before his passion, death and resurrection. This meal has a very special significance. Basically, it was the celebration of the Jewish Passover and Jesus also wanted to celebrate the Passover Meal. From this meal he raised the new covenant of love and instituted the Eucharist, what we celebrate today. It was not a coincidental event but rather to introduce a new meaning to the Passover through the lamb called Jesus. It has become the basis for the celebration of the Eucharist, which is the source and submit of the Christian life. The First Reading speaks about the Passover Meal which the Jewish communities commemorate as their liberation from slavery in Egypt. The Passover meal is a re-enactment of that hasty meal they had to take before escaping from the Pharaoh and his armies. The meal is full of symbols: the lamb is eaten fully, the blood of the lamb painted on the door posts, the unleavened bread, the bitter herbs, eating the meal standing and dressed ready for a long journey. It is a sacramental celebration recalling the Exodus event. All these are being carried over in adapted forms in our Eucharist.
At the Last Supper Jesus and his disciples sat down together at their Passover meal. There is no mention of a lamb because there is a new lamb called Jesus, the Lamb of God. He is the sacrificial victim of the New Covenant whose blood will adorn the wood of the cross. In this meal, the emphasis is on the unleavened bread and Body, on wine and Blood. This meal becomes now the sacrament of our liberation through the broken Body and the Blood poured out on the cross.
In the Gospel John introduces a different service: the washing of the feet. This is a loving service, which is represented in today’s liturgy. To be the leader, to have authority is to serve others in love. When Jesus bent down to wash his disciples' feet, Peter was filled with fear and surprise he refused, because washing the guests' feet was the job of a slave in the house. However, in so speaking, Peter revealed his understanding that the Master never serves but is always served and obeyed. But Jesus says, "Unless I wash you, you have no part with me." Peter has to learn that in the Kingdom, in the world of Christ, the leader is one who serves. It is a message for the leaders of the Church and the Country. In doing such an activity Jesus was not humiliating himself but he shows the example of serving one another. "I call you friends." Service here is love (agape) in action - it is carrying out in action the strong desire I have for the well-being of my friend. I do it not because I am below him or above him but because I love him and this is how I express my love.
At the end Jesus asks to do this in remembrance of him which echoes the words at the Eucharist. There is a clear and important link here with the Eucharist. The Eucharist must also be the celebration of a loving, serving, caring community. If there is no community, there is no Eucharist. The Bread of the Eucharist is to be shared and that sharing is a symbol of the unity that actually exists. Our Eucharist becomes more meaningful when we go out of the church. To love and serve others .Eucharist is lived out in spending ourselves for others. Jesus gave us the Eucharist at the Last Supper to be a constant reminder of God's great love for us and, combined with the washing of the feet, that we have an obligation to share that same love with all those around us. Both the celebration of the Eucharist and the loving service given to our brothers and sisters has to be done in memory of him. The Priesthood was also instituted during the last supper. As St. John Paul II says in his letter to the priests on a Maundy Thursday that the Scripture is very clear in saying that Jesus is the Priest of the New Covenant. Thanks be to God for the gift of the Priesthood. The priests of the New Covenant continue the same mission of Jesus, the High Priest. So let pray also for the priests that they understand the preciousness of their Priesthood and let their anointed hands be stainless.