Exodus 12:1-8, 11-14; Psalm 115; 1Corinthians 11:23-26; John 13:1-15
There are two homily notes here for our meditation and prayers. Fr. Daniel Evbotokhai on the Last supper and Fr. Thomas Oyede on the topic “The Holy Eucharist and the Sacred Priesthood: At the Service of Charity” . Happy priesthood anniversary to all our Priest.
Fr. Dan Evbotokhai
The Lord’s Supper is celebrated in the evening time just as the Passover Meal was celebrated in the evening to recall the first Passover in which the Israelites left Egypt. As the blood of the lamb saved the Israelites, so the blood of Jesus Christ brings salvation to the whole world.
Today we begin the Easter Triduum. Today is the twin birth of the Eucharist and the Priesthood. Before offering himself to the Father on the Cross, Jesus offers himself as the bread of life to his Apostles and through their ministry to every person. Jesus told his Apostles in Luke 22:19 “Do this in remembrance of me”. By these words Jesus instituted the priesthood. Thus, through the priesthood, Christ made his sacrifice ever present, until the end of time.
Today’s mass is a blend of joy and sadness. There is joy as we celebrate the birth of the Eucharist and the Priesthood. And so the altar is decorated, ‘Gloria’ is sung, White vestments are worn, the bells a rung throughout the Gloria, but remain silent till Easter Vigil.
There is sadness for this was the farewell meal with the Apostles. It draws attention to that day when Jesus Christ was betrayed.
Nevertheless, this is a demonstration of his love. Today’s gospel says in Jihn13:1 he loved them to the end. To love to the end, is to love to the extreme that is His death and resurrection. In John 15:13 Jesus says “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” Alan Jackson wrote:
“What a friend we have in Jesus,All our sins and griefs to bear,And what a privilege o carry, Everything to God in prayer”
And so Jesus left us the commandment of love, the new code for Christians. Jesus demonstrated this through the washing feet. A sign of service to everyone. The reference to bathing and the washing of the feet also remind us that our souls were cleansed at baptism but that, from time to time, we need to be cleansed again which we do in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. However due to the situation COVID 19 the washing of feet and Procession to the Altar of Repose are omitted, the Chrism Mass will be celebrated at a future date; while at the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday night the Blessing of the Easter Fire and procession is also omitted, baptism is omitted. But the life of light, love and service continues. God save us from this virus.
Let us purify ourselves, let us uproot all that belongs to satan and may we find fullness of love and life through the Eucharist. Amen.
An Act of Spiritual Communion
My Jesus, I believe that You are present in the Most Holy Sacrament.
I love You above all things, and I desire to receive You into my soul.
Since I cannot at this moment receive You sacramentally,
come at least spiritually into my heart. I embrace You as if You were already there and unite myself wholly to You. Never permit me to be separated from You. Amen.
Prayer for a Priest
O Jesus, our great High Priest, Hear my humble prayers on behalf of your priest, Father [N]. Give him a deep faith, a bright and firm hope and a burning love which will ever increase in the course of his priestly life.
In his loneliness, comfort him In his sorrows, strengthen him In his frustrations, point out to him that it is through suffering that the soul is purified, and show him that he is needed by the Church, he is needed by souls, he is needed for the work of redemption.
O loving Mother Mary, Mother of Priests, take to your heart your son who is close to you because of his priestly ordination, and because of the power which he has received to carry on the work of Christ in a world which needs him so much.
Be his comfort, be his joy, be his strength, and especially help him to live and to defend the ideals of consecrated celibacy.
Fr. Thomas OYOEDE
“The Holy Eucharist and the Sacred Priesthood: At the Service of Charity”
Each year since my ordination, I have often considered the Mass of the Lord’s Supper as a time to be preached to than to preach. This is because it is an occasion that could be considered as a moment of priestly renewal, of reflection on the gift of the Priesthood by the gracious God to good-for-nothing men like myself. However, as there is no Priesthood without the Eucharist and the Eucharist is at the heart of ecclesial communion and unity, all of us share in the common Priesthood of Christ and this should be the ultimate focus of today’s celebration., Christ and not the Priest as a person per se except as it relates to the very Priesthood of Christ.
The first reading takes our mind back to what is referred to as the paschal haggada, the commemoration of the Israelite Passover, at the centre and core of which is the lamb that was slayed to liberate them. It is couched in words of praise and thanksgiving understood in the Hebrew sense as the berakah, whose Greek equivalent is eulogia which means praise/blessing and could also mean thanksgiving. It is thus a celebration of God’s power and a perpetuation of hope.
Now, Jesus’ death bears some connection with this Israelite account of their history and faith in God who saves and guides through history. In the account of John’s gospel, it is shown that his death coincided with the sacrifice of the lamb in the Temple which also implies that Jesus died a day before Easter. In the synoptic accounts on the other hand, Jesus took part in the Passover before his death, and introduced the gift of his Body and Blood (cf. Matt. 26:26ff). All gospel accounts point to one truth for the Christian believer: there is a relationship between Jesus’ passion and death and the sacrifice of the Passover. He is the New Lamb who offers his Body and Blood, replacing the lamb with himself (cf. Jn. 1:29).
Again, Jesus’ offering of himself is conscious, wilful and full. It is an act of perfect charity. The gospel account of the washing of the feet today tells us that Jesus was “fully aware” of his power of dominion over all things as given to him by God but chose to wash his disciples feet while at supper. In the Jewish culture, this work is reserved for slaves. Jesus thus offers the Eucharist, the Sacrament of his Body and Blood, which he commanded his disciples to celebrate ad perpetuum in his memory all in a beautiful setting and context of service and self-sacrifice.
Thus, the berakah, the Eucharist is not a mere commemoration of a lost past. It envelopes the past, the present and the future in terms of memory, joy and hope. It is precisely for this reason that Jesus entrusted it to the disciples (the successors of which are the Pope and the Bishops in communion with him) as a celebration that should be perpetuated. For the same reason, St. Paul tells us in today’s second reading that it is a tradition that was handed over through the Apostles. This tradition continues till date in the places where Priests, scattered all over the world, continue to offer Masses for the glory of God, for the living and for the dead.
Since all the baptised share in the priesthood of Christ secundum propriam cuiusque condicionem (each according to his own condition), we are bound to the communion of charity and service of which the Holy Eucharist is both the root and the fruit. If we share in the Holy Eucharist, the very life of Christ, it is expected that we pursue acts of charity.
The ministerial priest, therefore, is not of higher dignity than the other members of the faithful as each is called in his own capacity to wash the others’ feet. The life of the priest is a vocation to serve the faithful in simplicity and self effacement. He is not an ostentatious royal leader or a social head but a common brother at the service of rich and poor alike. It is therefore of high importance for us priests to daily pay attention to our lifestyles and christian witnessing. We may also consider that a time of a global pandemic as this is also a time that challenges our readiness to give ourselves willingly at the service of the poor, the sick, the unjustly treated in our society. It is a call to sacrifice and an existential share in the sufferings of our people.
Equally, christian charity should teach all of us that social distancing is not emotional, moral and spiritual distancing. We see all around us beautiful acts of charity all over the world. People who go around to drop food at others’ doorsteps unnoticed, charity organisations who bring food and relief materials to the poor, food shops who offer discounts, governments who promote social security for their citizens, doctors, nurses and public health workers who take their place in the war front in battle against this pandemic. There are also friends and families who reach out to others through telecommunications. They all teach us that charity, service and solidarity bring joy and peace to the hearts of men and that these know no boundaries.
May the Holy Eucharist continue to nourish the Church and our world. May the grace of ordination be renewed and may priests find in the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, the grace and fervour to persevere in charity and service. Amen.