Holy Thursday by Father Peter Chinnappan
Holy Thursday (April 18) (Ex 12:1-8, 11-14; I Cor 11:23-26; Jn 13:1-15)
Introduction: On Holy Thursday we celebrate three anniversaries: 1) the anniversary of the first Holy Mass, 2) the anniversary of the institution of ministerial priesthood in order to perpetuate the Holy Mass, convey God’s forgiveness to repentant sinners and preach the Good News of Salvation, and 3) the anniversary of Jesus’ promulgation of His new commandment of love: “Love one another as I have loved you.” Today we remember how Jesus transformed the Jewish Passover into the New Testament Passover. The Jewish Passover was, in fact, a joint celebration of two ancient thanksgiving celebrations. The descendants of Abel, who were shepherds, used to lead their sheep from the winter pastures to the summer pastures after the sacrificial offering of a lamb to God. They called this celebration the “Pass over.” The farming descendants of Cain, however, held a harvest festival called the Massoth in which they offered unleavened bread to God as an act of thanksgiving. The Passover feast of the Israelites (Exodus 12:26-37), was a harmonious combination of these two ancient feasts of thanksgiving, commanded by the Lord God and celebrated yearly by all Israelites to thank God for the miraculous liberation of their ancestors from Egyptian slavery, their exodus from Egypt, and their final arrival in the Promised Land.
Scripture lessons: In the first reading, God gives the Hebrews two instructions: prepare for the moment of liberation by a ritual meal and make a symbolic mark on your homes to exempt the families within each from the coming slaughter. In the second reading, Paul suggests that the celebration of the Lord’s Supper was an unbroken tradition from the very beginning of the Church. By it, Christians gratefully remembered the death and Resurrection of Jesus. Today’s Gospel describes how Jesus transformed the Jewish Passover into the Eucharistic celebration. After washing the feet of his Apostles and commanding them to do humble service for each other, Jesus, in addition to serving the roasted Paschal lamb, concluded the ceremony by giving his Apostles his own body and blood under the appearances of bread and wine as spiritual food and drink,
“You don’t recognize me, do you?” There is an old legend about Leonardo DaVinci’s painting of the Last Supper. In all his paintings, he tried to find someone to pose that fit the face of the particular character he was painting. Out of hundreds of possibilities he chose a 19-year old to portray Jesus. It took him six months to paint the face of Jesus. Seven years later DaVinci started hunting for just the right face for Judas. Where could he find one that would portray that image? He looked high and low. Down in a dark Roman dungeon he found a wretched, unkempt prisoner who could strike the perfect pose. The prisoner was released to his care and when the portrait of Judas was complete the prisoner said to the great artist, “You don’t recognize me, do you? I am the man you painted seven years ago for the face of Christ. O God, I have fallen so low.”
1) A challenge for humble service. Our celebration of the Eucharist requires that we wash one another’s feet, i.e., serve one another, and revere Christ’s presence in other persons. In practical terms, that means we are to consider their needs to be as important as our own and to serve their needs, without expecting any reward.
2) A loving invitation for sacrificial sharing and self-giving love. Let us imitate the model of self-giving love which Jesus offers us when He shares with us his own body and blood for our spiritual nourishment and enriches us with his Real Presence in the Holy Eucharist. It is by sharing our blessings – our talents, time, health and wealth – with others that we become true disciples of Christ and obey Jesus’ new commandment: “Love one another as I have loved you.”
3) An invitation to become Christ-bearers and Christ-conveyers: “Go forth, the Mass is ended,” really means, “Go in peace to love and serve one another.’’ We are to carry Jesus to our homes and places of work, conveying to others around us the love, mercy, forgiveness and spirit of humble service of Christ whom we carry with us.