EXODUS 12:1-8, 11-14; PSALM 116; 1CORINTHIANS 11:23-26; JOHN 13:1-15
There are two homily notes here for our meditation and prayers.
Happy anniversary to all Priests.
Fr. Daniel Evbotokhai
Today we begin the Easter Triduum. It begins with the Mass of the Lord’s Supper. This mass 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 is the twin birth of the Eucharist and the Priesthood. Before offering himself to the Father on the Cross, Jesus offered himself as the bread of life to his disciples He instituted the Eucharist the spiritual meal that will keep us whole until we Passover from earth to heaven. That same night Jesus told his disciples 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. Without the Eucharist there will be no priesthood and without the priesthood there will be no Eucharist.
Again, 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 are rung throughout the Gloria, but remain silent till Easter Vigil. There is sadness because this was the farewell meal Jesus had with the disciples. It draws attention to that day when Jesus Christ was betrayed. The moment Jesus entered into the critical hour of his suffering and death.
Nevertheless, this even simply demonstrates Christ’s love. Today’s gospel says in John13:1 “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” No love is greater than dying for a friend.
Jesus further demonstrated this love through the washing of feet. A sign of service to everyone. The priesthood is a life of service; it is a life wasted for God that gains its relevance in eternity. Again, the reference to bathing and the washing of the feet today 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. 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.
Fr. Paul Ordipe:
The Eucharist and the Priesthood : Intrinsic relation
“Do this in memory of Me”
This Mass of the Lord’s Supper commences the Sacred Easter Triduum, the three most crucial days in the Church’s year. Tonight we begin the celebration of the paschal mystery, the tri-partite mystery of Our Lord’s institution of the new covenant, His sacrificial death, and His rising to the new life of resurrection. The Last Supper, the Crucifixion and the Resurrection, these three events can be seen as the three panels of a single triptych, three components of the same integral mystery. The historical factual events occurred on three separate days, but they really comprise one single mystery, one tri-partite action of God.
Each of the three component elements is inextricably bound up with the other two. Indeed, each of them only really makes sense when we understand them as three aspects of the same integral spiritual reality. Tonight, our attention is focussed on the first panel of the triptych – the new covenant, the Passover sacrifice.
For Christ as well as for us, this is an evening of evenings. Yes, the evening of the Last Supper. Beloved friends, this evening is a time for more praying and deep reflection, a time to immerse ourselves in the mysteries we celebrate, “the mystery of God-head here in hiding, whom we do adore”.
This evening’s ceremony has FOUR PARTS – the Liturgy of the Word, the Washing of the feet, the Liturgy of the Eucharist and the Transfer of the Holy Eucharist.
At the Last Supper, the Lord Jesus instituted for His Church three mysteries – the mystery of the Most Holy Eucharist, the mystery of the Sacred Priesthood and the mystery of His model of love.
This evening, we gather to commemorate and memorialize, to re-enact and re-present, to celebrate and partake, in what is for us Christians the most significant supper of all time.
It is appropriate that we reflect a bit on what it means to be a priest, particularly since this is the day when Holy Mother Church celebrates the origins of the Priesthood, finding it in the great high priestly sacrifice of Jesus Christ and in His commissioning of His apostles to “do these things in remembrance of me.” This is the awesome responsibility placed on us – as ministers who celebrate the Eucharist and Christ’s faithful who participate in Eucharistic celebration.
As disciples of Jesus Christ, let us immerse ourselves deeply in the mysteries we celebrate these coming days. For our good and the good of the Church, Jesus instituted the Most Holy Eucharist to be our food for eternal life. For our good and the good of the Church, Jesus Christ instituted the priesthood so that the Church will always have sacraments in her until He comes again. Yes, for our good and the good of the Church, Jesus Christ gave us a new example of love by washing His apostles’ feet. For all these we must be eternally grateful to God, grateful to our Lord Jesus Christ and grateful to His Church, the Catholic Church.
This was called “Maundy Thursday” in medieval England, “Mandatum Thursday”, from the root meaning found in the Latin word which means “I give”. This is the hour in which our Lord gives Himself to us in the giving of Himself to our Father. It is an hour in which we should take time out and reflect, pondering the awesome truth of God’s giving of Himself in total and humble love to us mere mortals.
“Do this in memory of me”. The Last Supper is the best and the highest of all dinners, meals and suppers that humanity has ever witnessed.
At the Last Supper, Our Lord brought to an end one ancient long-standing sacrificial system, gave it a radically new and dynamic meaning and replaced it with a new and better one, the eternal sacrifice of His own death.
In the first reading, we heard again about the sacrificing and eating of the Passover lamb. God commanded the Jews to perform this ritual each year, as a way of remembering and giving thanks for their deliverance from captivity in Egypt. That was the night of death, during which God passed over – spared the lives of – His chosen ones, and then led them out to new life.
That first Passover was the start of a long, long journey to the promised land. That ancient Passover sacrifice was sacred, but temporary. He preserved two of the elements of the old Passover meal, the blessing and sharing of bread and wine, but He gave that ritual a new form, a new context, a new meaning and, most important of all, a vital new power.
This is what we mean when we say that the Last Supper was the first Mass. When Christ instituted the Mass, He left us a permanent way of ‘accessing’ the full reality and actuality of His atoning death. In the Eucharistic sacrifice, we do so much more than just ‘remember’ the new Passover. In the Eucharistic sacrifice, the new Passover Himself becomes truly present, and works His life-giving reconciliation, over and over again.
At the Last Supper, Jesus also did something else. In addition to giving the command to the Apostles to continue His new sacrifice, He also gave them the power to do so. That is to say, as well as instituting the Mass, the Lord at the very same time also instituted the Catholic priesthood. “Do this in memory of me”. At that moment, the Apostles were raised to the priesthood, in order to be able to comply with the Lord’s command. They needed the grace and power of Order to do what God the Son had told them to do. For them simply to have repeated His words over the bread and wine would have been an empty gesture, vain repetition. He needed to bestow upon them His own divine power to transform bread and wine into Himself, the power to consecrate. With that miraculous power came also the authority, the mandate, to offer back to the Father what they consecrated, the living oblation of the living Jesus, for the remission of sins, the new and everlasting covenant for the redemption of mankind.
On Maundy Thursday, in the upper room, the Son of God gave us Himself, for ever. He handed Himself over, irrevocably. He has nothing more to give. We already have it all. But because He knows how easily thoughtless children can squander even the most precious gifts, He gives it back to us, in Holy Mass, again and again, always the same, ever new.
So the Last Supper was not only the First Mass, it was also the First Ordination, the start of the Catholic Priesthood whose task it would be to guard and dispense the Eucharistic mystery until the end of time. The Priesthood and the Mass are inextricably linked.
Both are wonderful gifts, which we Catholics should treasure. How often we take them for granted, minimise their significance, become so familiar with them or even ignore them. We forget that the mystery of the Mass has been in the Church since the first Triduum. We forget that generations of Christians have lived and died for their right to celebrate the Mass, not least in our own land.
At the Last Supper, we were born as priests: for this reason, it is both a pleasure and a duty to gather once again in the Upper Room and to remind one another with heartfelt gratitude of the lofty mission which we share.
The Eucharist and Priesthood are both closely bound together such that we can say that the Priesthood exists for the Eucharist and serves it. Also, that we cannot have the Eucharist without the Priest. In Christ, both are one and the same – priest and victim. As our Catechism teaches us: ‘the redemptive sacrifice of Christ is unique, accomplished once and for all, yet it is made present in the Eucharistic sacrifice of the Church. The same is true of the one priesthood of Christ; it is made present through the ministerial priesthood. …” (CCC n. 1545).
The gift of the ministerial priesthood and consequently the great gift of the Eucharist to the Church are irreplaceable and inevitable in the Christian salvation economy. Both are inseparably related, for without the Eucharist, there can be no priesthood. The Eucharist will be impossible if there is no priest. “There can be no substitute whatsoever for the ministerial Priesthood. […] For “the only minister who can confect the sacrament of the Eucharist in persona Christi is a validly ordained Priest”.
Clearly, then, a priest’s whole meaning and purpose is focused on the Eucharist in general, the Mass in particular. For he is consecrator and sacrifice-offerer of the Blessed Sacrament, besides being its distributor, custodian and privileged adorer. How accurate and apt, therefore, is the Holy Father’s observation: “A priest is worth what his Eucharistic life is worth.”
In different documents of the Church, we all priests are urged to celebrate Holy Mass each day with the same joy and fervour with which we celebrated our first Masses, and willingly spend time in prayer before the tabernacle. These documents ask seminarians, priests of the future, to make every effort to experience the beauty of taking part daily in Holy Mass and of spending a certain amount of time in dialogue with the Eucharistic Lord. In particular, also, the Laity are directed to rediscover the gift of the Eucharist as light and strength for their daily lives in the world, in the exercise of their respective professions amid so many different situations.
On this solemn evening, we fall back to reflect on the words of Christ: Do this in memory of me”. As priests and priests-to-be we must be committed to celebrating the Eucharist properly and worthily. Liturgical celebrations are sacred dramas entrusted to us to celebrate for God’s people. We are expected to observe the rubrics, use the prayers provided, perform the actions we are asked, preach the way the Church expects and respect the signs and symbols. Yes sacred drama. When we celebrate the Eucharist, may we never break the illusion. We are mere servants and administrators and this means we should celebrate the liturgy with faith and fervour.
Dear friends, as we commence the Paschal Triduum, let us with faith immerse ourselves into the mysteries of our redemption. Yes immerse ourselves in the mystery of the Last Supper event.
Look at the Most Blessed Eucharist, fathom the reality there, Christ in his divinity and humanity, the body and blood of Jesus in the species of bread and wine. Whenever we celebrate this Eucharist, may we celebrate it faithfully and with fervour and always may we have the faith and courage to say “My Lord and my God.”
Look at the sacred priesthood, an awesome reality, mere frail mortals endowed with a dignity higher than angels’, given the power to make Christ present on our altars. Love and respect him for whatever is his condition he remains another Christ.
Yes, look at the commandment of brotherly and sisterly love, let us wash each others feet, love because God is love.
Love is healing, love is salvific. Through the blessed passion and death of our Lord Jesus Christ may we rise with Him now and forever. 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. Amen.