Thursday, April 1, 2010

This Is My Body Given For You; This Cup Is The New Covenant In My Blood; Do This In Remembrance Of Me.

Holy Thursday
Evening Mass of the Lord's Supper
Reading 1
Exodus 12:1-8, 11-14
The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt,
“This month shall stand at the head of your calendar;
you shall reckon it the first month of the year.
Tell the whole community of Israel:
On the tenth of this month every one of your families
must procure for itself a lamb, one apiece for each household.
If a family is too small for a whole lamb,
it shall join the nearest household in procuring one
and shall share in the lamb
in proportion to the number of persons who partake of it.

The lamb must be a year-old male and without blemish.
You may take it from either the sheep or the goats.
You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month,
and then, with the whole assembly of Israel present,
it shall be slaughtered during the evening twilight.
They shall take some of its blood
and apply it to the two doorposts and the lintel
of every house in which they partake of the lamb.
That same night they shall eat its roasted flesh
with unleavened bread and bitter herbs.

“This is how you are to eat it:
with your loins girt, sandals on your feet
and your staff in hand,
you shall eat like those who are in flight.
It is the Passover of the LORD.
For on this same night I will go through Egypt,
striking down every firstborn of the land, both man and beast,
and executing judgment on all the gods of Egypt—I, the LORD!
But the blood will mark the houses where you are.
Seeing the blood, I will pass over you;
thus, when I strike the land of Egypt,
no destructive blow will come upon you.

“This day shall be a memorial feast for you,
which all your generations shall celebrate
with pilgrimage to the LORD, as a perpetual institution.”
+++     +++    +++    +++  
Psalm 166
Our blessing-cup is a communion with the Blood of Christ.
How shall I make a return to the LORD
for all the good he has done for me?
The cup of salvation I will take up,
and I will call upon the name of the LORD.
Our blessing-cup is a communion with the Blood of Christ.
Precious in the eyes of the LORD
is the death of his faithful ones.
I am your servant, the son of your handmaid;
you have loosed my bonds.
Our blessing-cup is a communion with the Blood of Christ.
To you will I offer sacrifice of thanksgiving,
and I will call upon the name of the LORD.
My vows to the LORD I will pay
in the presence of all his people.
Our blessing-cup is a communion with the Blood of Christ.
+++    +++    +++    +++   
Reading 2
1 Corinthians 11:23-26Brothers and sisters:
I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you,
that the Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over,
took bread, and, after he had given thanks,
broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you.
Do this in remembrance of me.”
In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying,
“This cup is the new covenant in my blood.
Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup,
you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes.
John 13:1-15
Before the feast of Passover,
Jesus knew that his hour had come
to pass from this world to the Father.
He loved his own in the world
and he loved them to the end.
The devil had already induced Judas,
son of Simon the Iscariot, to hand him over.
So, during supper,
fully aware that the Father had put everything into his power
and that he had come from God and was returning to God,
he rose from supper and took off his outer garments.
He took a towel and tied it around his waist.
Then he poured water into a basin
and began to wash the disciples’ feet
and dry them with the towel around his waist.
He came to Simon Peter, who said to him,
“Master, are you going to wash my feet?”
Jesus answered and said to him,
“What I am doing, you do not understand now,
but you will understand later.”
Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.”
Jesus answered him,
“Unless I wash you, you will have no inheritance with me.”
Simon Peter said to him,
“Master, then not only my feet,
but my hands and head as well.”
Jesus said to him,
“Whoever has bathed has no need
except to have his feet washed,
for he is clean all over;
so you are clean, but not all.”
For he knew who would betray him;
for this reason, he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

So when he had washed their feet
and put his garments back on and reclined at table again,
he said to them, “Do you realize what I have done for you?
You call me ‘teacher’ and ‘master,’
and rightly so, for indeed I am.
If I, therefore, the master and teacher,
have washed your feet,
you ought to wash one another’s feet.
I have given you a model to follow,
so that as I have done for you, you should also do.”
TODAY’S SCRIPTURE READINGS cover the whole sweep of what today’s feast means.

The first reading is a description of the Jewish Passover Meal. It is a sacramental re-enactment of the meal taken by the Israelites before their flight across the Red Sea from Egypt. A flight from slavery to freedom and liberation. This, once a year commemoration, could be called the “Eucharist” of the Jews. Except that they celebrate it just once a year and not weekly or even daily, as we do. It is a sacred remembering of God’s great act to liberate them from slavery and the beginning of their long journey to the Promised Land. It is no coincidence that it was precisely during the celebration of this meal that Jesus instituted what we now call the Sacrament of the Eucharist. Here is the link between the Hebrew and the Christian Covenants.

In the Second Reading, Paul recalls what Jesus did during that Last Supper, that Passover Meal. He took the bread at the table and said it was his Body. He took the cup of wine and said it was his Blood to be poured out for us. These actions were to be repeated by his followers in memory of the liberation brought about for us through his suffering, death and resurrection.

Three events are thus united into a new mystery:
      - the Jewish Passover and Paschal Meal;
      - the whole Paschal Mystery of Jesus: suffering, death and resurrection.
      - the linking of the bread and wine and its communal eating
        with the sacrificial death and the resurrection of Jesus.

There is a new liberation, not just from physical slavery, but from every kind of slavery, especially that of sin and evil. There is now a new Pasch and a new Passover. There is a new Lamb, the Lamb of God. There is a new unleavened bread, the Bread that is the Body of the Risen Lord. The blood of the lamb is now replaced with the Blood of the Lamb, Jesus, who takes away the sin of the world.

The Gospel links all this with the concrete reality of our lives. It says nothing about the Pasch or the Passover. It says nothing about the Eucharist, or the Body and Blood of Jesus. Instead it speaks of Jesus, Lord and Master, getting down on his knees and washing the feet of his disciples. It is this spirit of love and service of brothers and sisters which is to be the outstanding characteristic of the Christian disciple.

And this is the true living out of the Eucharistic celebration. To have one without the other is not to live the Gospel. And so the words of the Eucharist are also repeated here: “Do this in memory of me.”

Not to celebrate the Eucharist in community and not to spend our energies in love and service of each other is not to be living the Gospel. Our Christian living is a seamless robe between Gospel, liturgy and daily life and interaction.


Sarah in the tent said...

The disciples are clean all over, but their feet must be washed by Jesus because 'Unless I wash you, you will have no inheritance with me'.

The importance of the feet to a shared inheritance reminds me of Genesis: 'I shall put enmity between your offspring and hers; it will bruise your head and you will strike its heel.' Christ is foreshadowed here and connected to all humanity by the heel's vulnerability to and power over the snake. Perhaps the shared inheritance has its roots in this promise.

Not so long ago, people made the gruesome discovery of a heel bone from a first century crucifixion victim. A bent nail goes right through it, rather like an enormous snake's tooth.

It's strange that even in the Greek myth of Achilles, the heel is vulnerable because it had not been immersed.

I suppose I am imagining that, when Christ enclosed his disciples' feet within his own hands - immersing them in himself - he imparted the special power of his own unique vulnerability.

Fr. John L. Sullivan said...

There is no doubt that heels - or more precisely, ankles - are a very vulnerable part of the human anatomy. In the Achillead, written in the 1st century AD, Thetis, mother of Achilles, dipped his body into the River Styx to make him immortal, but he was left vulnerable by the part of the body she was holding - his heel.

As you mentioned, Sarah, in Genesis 3:15, the Lord speaks to the serpent: "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel." But if you consider carefully the meaning of the verse, the power of the Tempter, represented by the serpent, over the children of God is limited, while the Son of Eve who is at the same time the Son of God has the greater power.

One last point: The gospels make it clear that Jesus' washing the feet of his disciples did not impart invulnerability to them. Within the next several hours, Judas will betray him, and Peter will deny him three times.

The promise is that God will grant us sufficient grace to resist temptation and avoid sin -- absolutely. But we must use our freedom of choice to cooperate with this grace, else we will "turn our ankles", stumble and fall.