Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper
Good Shepherd Tonight; Sacrificial Lamb Tomorrow
Tonight, we celebrate the beginnings of the Church as Jesus establishes the two great sacraments of Eucharist and Priesthood. Tonight, we see Jesus as the Good Shepherd. Tomorrow, we will gaze upon Him as the Sacrificial Lamb. (see Zechariah 10:10-11) Tonight He gives us the Eucharist, tomorrow He will become the Lamb of God, Who takes away the sins of the world.
Tonight as He washes His disciples’ feet, Jesus models the great commandment to love one another. Tomorrow He will live out the demands of this Great Love as our High Priest, the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for His sheep.
Tonight, Jesus gives us the Banquet of His Love, new and eternal. The cupboard of the Church is the only place this meal is stored. From this Eucharist, we draw the grace to live our lives with the same love. Jesus came that we might have life, and have it more abundantly. (John 10:10) The banquet we celebrate tonight is the means by which this fullness of life is eternally shared with us. From this Banquet of Love we receive the grace to grow in the fullness of charity and life.
Tomorrow we will remember the great out-pouring of this Love. The Blood of Jesus is a stream that flows once and for all times. It is the life-giving stream seen by Ezekiel flowing from the temple. It is a stream that becomes a river, flowing into the sea, renewing all life. (see Ezekiel 47: 1-10) This outpouring of Love is the Cup of Blessing we share; our Communion with the Blood of Christ. (1 Cor 10:16) This Blood of Christ is the great treasure of the Church entrusted to the priests for safe-keeping and distribution. This blood of Christ washes away our sins and makes us worthy to serve the living God; indeed, this Blood of Christ reunites us with God.
God has blessed us in Christ. Through him, at the cost of his blood, we have been redeemed. (see Romans 5:8-9) This is the cup of blessing shared by Christ with his beloved disciples. The meal Jesus celebrated with His disciples was a remembrance of God’s powerful arm that led the people of Israel out of slavery in Egypt. The meal we celebrate tonight is the fulfillment of the Passover Meal, now that God through His Son has freed His people from their sins. This Eucharist is a remembrance of the redeeming work of Jesus and has become as Moses declared, “a perpetual institution.” (Exodus 12:14)
When we eat the Body of Jesus and drink His Blood, we know what it is to share in the Love of God. This intimate Communion of Life in God is what was lost by sin. We must be honest and humble about our need for this Eucharist. Hopefully, our Lenten journey has sharpened our awareness of sin. Hopefully, our Lenten journey has taught us that apart from Jesus, we can do nothing. (John 15:5) This is what sin is; to separate one’s self from Jesus; from God. When sin separates us from God, we can do nothing.
We all know this mysterious power that comes over us at times that seduces us and clouds our thinking. This is the mysterious power that came over Judas and led him to betray Jesus this very night. This power is real, and we know that when we give ourselves over to this power, we die. This is the power of sin that diminishes the Divine Life within us. We cannot love both Jesus and the attraction of sin. Jesus said: “You cannot love both God and mammon.” (Matthew 6:24) We cannot serve two masters. Blessed Columba Marmion says: “we cannot by the same act unite ourselves to someone and turn away from him.” (Christ, The Life of The Soul, p. 170)
If we choose to remain in sin, then we can have no part in Divine Life. We all know what it is like to desire this Divine Life; to desire this intimate walk with God, and yet to fall into sin. It is so defeating! The reality of our experience when we sin tells us the Truth about sin, that it leads to death, and diminishes the Divine Life within us. Yet, our hope is always in the Lord. God allows this struggle within us between good and evil because, as a wise young priest told me just last night: “God knows we can be victorious. But we are only victorious when we remain in Christ, because it is Christ alone who is victorious.” This is why Christ tells us to remain in Him. (John 15:4)
So, my dear friends, we celebrate tonight. We celebrate the priesthood, and those individual priests who hear our sins and grant us God’s mercy. We celebrate the priesthood and those priests who offer us the Eucharist and all the sacraments that are the means by which Christ shares with us the Divine Life. Above all, we revel in Christ who is our victory. We celebrate this Holy Eucharist, our greatest prayer and means of giving thanks to God for all the Good He has done for us. We celebrate this Eucharist; our greatest means of receiving the abundance of Life, Divine Life, from Christ Himself.
Let us learn these lessons of love. As we are renewed in Divine Life and Love tonight and in every Eucharist, may our lives be marked by concrete actions of the same love, expressed to those who are most in need.