Maundy Thursday (Mass of the Lord’s Supper)

First reading                       Exodus 12:1-8,11-14

Responsorial Psalm          Psalm 115(116):12-13,15-18

Second reading                   1 Corinthians 11:23-26

Gospel                                   John 13:1-15

Tonight, on the eve of our Lord’s death, we enter the last time Jesus ate with his twelve disciples before he is dragged away and nailed to the wood of the cross. This is a dark night, a night of betrayal, a night of uncertainty, a night filled with terrors. But amidst the darkness of betrayal and the mounting sense of certain peril, something utterly luminous takes place. A glimmer of divine light which would remain veiled in obscurity from its very institution. You see, on this night, not only is the Lord of Life enveloped by the night of betrayal, but on this night the Lord of life forever envelops himself in the dark veil of sacramental signs. Our Saviour takes bread and wine. “This is my body… This is my blood”, he says. From this day forward the light of God’s presence would be accessible to his disciples, shrouded under the veil of the ordinary, perceptible only to the eyes of faith. But what fulfils these mysterious words and sets this supper apart from every other, is what happens next. 

The dark night turns into a very dark day, when Jesus’ body is torn, and his blood poured out on the cross. This is the moment he definitively gives his body and blood. It is therefore inseparable from the words Jesus utters on this night: “this is my body which is for you.” The last supper is not a stand-alone event. It is one single movement with his self-sacrifice on the cross, which is itself tied to the sacrifice of the Passover lamb which we heard in our first reading. Remember, St John the Baptist called Jesus “the Lamb of God”. The Passover lamb, we heard in our first reading, was sacrificed and eaten as a perpetual memorial of the day God freed his people from slavery in Egypt. His crucifixion– when he definitively gives his body and blood, happens on the day of that same Passover sacrifice. 

So, the last supper is not just a final meal. It makes sense only in its connection to the cross, in which the meaning of the bread and wine as his body and blood is actualised. He is the new Lamb sacrificed for us, who frees us from slavery to sin and death by our partaking of that Lamb. And this is the key. By eating of the lamb and putting its blood on their doorposts, the Israelites were saved. It wasn’t enough to just kill the lamb. They had to partake of it. In the same way, Jesus commands us to eat and drink. In doing so, we not only proclaim his death, but we participate in it and its effects. What are they? Forgiveness. Freedom from sin and death. Union with Jesus Christ. Eternal life. Inseparable from this sacrificial action, of course, is a deeply priestly one. For it is the duty of a priest to offer sacrifice. Now, remembering that Jesus offered himself as a sacrifice, this makes him not only the sacrificial victim, but also the priest who offers the victim. For this reason, Jesus’ command that his Apostles “do this in memory of me”, constitutes not only the beginning of the Eucharist, but also the beginning of the priesthood of the New Covenant, which ensures that our Lord’s sacrifice and its effects are available everywhere in the world. 

Brothers and sisters, this evening begins the great 3-part series of our salvation. At the end of tonight’s Mass, as well as of tomorrow’s Good Friday liturgy, there’s no final blessing. It’s all ‘one big Mass’, in a sense, which comes to its height at the Easter Vigil on Saturday Night. This raises the question, then, as to what we do over the next two days. If the Mass hasn’t concluded by the end of this evening, then the next two days are different from every other day. These holiest days of the year are meant to be lived in quiet and prayerful reverence as we walk with Jesus through his last supper, his suffering and his death. Now, I know we’ve still gotta live our lives, but I’d like to challenge you not to go home and blast the television, not to go out drinking and socialising, not to go about life normally. For these are not normal days. Instead, try and spend some extra time in prayer, do something that is more conducive of keeping an air of recollection and meditation, do some spiritual reading perhaps, do something that will allow you to keep the reality of our Lord’s self-sacrifice on the cross –the price of our salvation– in your hearts and before your eyes as much as possible. Let us, this evening, in particular, give thanks for that sacrifice and our ability to take part in its effects through the Eucharist. Let us also not forget to pray for our priests who are entrusted with this service to the Church, and pray that more young men would have the courage to follow in the footsteps of Jesus and his Apostles by laying down their lives as priests of God Most High. For without the priesthood there is no Eucharist. Without the Eucharist there is no Church. Without the Church, there is no salvation.


One response to “Maundy Thursday (Mass of the Lord’s Supper)”

  1. Thank you, Father, for drawing our attention to the big picture of how everything Jesus said and did from the Last Supper until the Resurrection were not individual but all tied together for our salvation ; How we can use the next two days in this very special time in the Church calender to focus on the wonderous Mercy of God.
    You also mention the COURAGEOUS action it takes for men to answer the call of God to be priests so we may have Confession, Eucharist, Church, Salvation…
    Oh! the Mercy of God
    God bless you abundantly in your shepherding of souls for Him.


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