Readings: Exodus 12:1-8,11-14, Ps. 116:12-13,15-18, 1 Corinthians 11:23-26, John 13:1-15

“When I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague shall fall upon you to destroy you when I smite the land of Egypt.” (Exodus 12:13)

Today is Holy Thursday, and with our celebration of the Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper, we begin the Easter Triduum, the summit of our liturgical year. Easter Triduum (three days) consists of today’s Mass, the Celebration of the Lord’s Passion and the Mass of the Resurrection of the Lord. During the Easter Triduum, we go beyond retelling the stories of salvation to “re-creating” these events to deepen our reflection of what happened during those last days of Christ walking the face of the earth. Hence, our celebrations are marked with a lot of symbolism and deep historical relevance. Fasten your seatbelts as we begin a journey of exploration into the meaning of the rich symbols in today’s celebration:

1. The Timing of Today’s Mass: Why are we celebrating this Mass in the evening and not in the morning or afternoon? Was it because we joined the Bishop at the Cathedral to celebrate Chrism Mass this morning? No. The answer lies in today’s first reading. Moses instructed the people: “Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male a year old; you shall take it from the sheep or the goats… the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill their lambs in the evening.” (Exodus 12:5-6). Does this mean that in today’s Mass, we celebrate the same Passover of the Israelites? Yes. Today’s celebration is called the “Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper.”

2. The Re-enactment of Passover: If we celebrate Passover this night, you may want to ask now: “Where are the lambs? Why aren’t we slaughtering them so we can apply their blood on our doorposts as Moses commanded?” This question takes us right to today’s second reading. When Jesus gathered with His disciples in the Large Upper Room prepared for Passover, something happened that would change the course of history forever—instead of slaughtering an animal without blemish as instructed by Moses, Jesus (being sinless and spotless) made himself The Lamb of Sacrifice. As St. Paul explains, Jesus took bread, “and when he gave thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way, the cup, after supper, says, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood.’ (1 Corinthians 11:24-25). This is where the New Testament takes over from the Old Testament. In other words, we don’t have animals in the Church this evening because Jesus Christ sacrificed Himself for us.

3. The Power of the Holy Eucharist: Going back to our first reading, let us find out why it was necessary to slaughter the lambs and sprinkle their blood on their doorposts. God said through Moses: “For I will pass through the Land of Egypt that night, and I will smite all the firstborn in Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the Lord. The blood shall be a sign for you upon the houses where you are, and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague shall fall upon you to destroy you.”(Exodus 12:12-13). Do you think it was the blood of those animals that saved the Israelites that night? No way! Those animals were only a symbolic representation of Christ, whose blood saved the Israelites from death.

4. Jesus Christ, Our High Priest: Reflecting on what happened this night (the night of the Lord’s Supper), the book of Hebrews says: “When Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the Holy Place, taking not the blood of goats and calves but his blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. For if the sprinkling of defiled persons with the blood of goats and bulls and with the ashes of a heifer sanctifies for the purification of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify your conscience from dead works to serve the living God.” (Hebrews 9:11-14). In other words, when we eat the flesh and drink the blood of Christ, we are smearing our lips with the blood that saved the Israelites from the Angel of Death that night. This is why we joyfully sing the Gloria in today’s Mass. The Gloria is a song of victory that tells the story of our salvation.

5. Do This in Memory of Me: When Jesus sacrificed Himself as our Passover Lamb, He made Himself physically available to us through the Priesthood when he said: “Do this in memory of me.” In other words, by instituting the Holy Eucharist, Jesus Christ also instituted the Priesthood. The Priesthood and the Holy Eucharist are so tied together that it is completely impossible to separate them. The Last Supper was the first Mass; it was also the first ordination ceremony – those who attended this Supper immediately understood that by Jesus’ words, they had received the power to transform bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ. Tonight, we celebrate the anniversary of the priesthood. While we reflect on the great sacrifice of Christ, our Passover Lamb, let us pause for a while to reflect on the sacrifices of our priests who make Christ accessible and available to us daily.

6. Jesus’ Example of Humility: If by the words “do this in memory of me” priests are other Christs (capable of turning bread and wine into Christ’s body and blood and performing other sacraments), it means that priests are very powerful. Yes, priests have the power to bind and lose; they can forgive (or retain) sins. (Cf. John 20:21-23). Knowing immediately that this could lead to pride and abuse of power, Jesus did something that would make a lasting impression, an act we shall repeat during this Mass – Jesus bent down to wash His disciples' feet. “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.” (John 13:14-15)

Let us pray: Almighty, ever-living God, teach me to sacrifice for the wellbeing of others and help me always to humble myself. Through Jesus Christ, Our Lord. Amen

Be Happy. Live Positive. Have Faith. It is well with you. God bless you. (Maundy Thursday - Evening Mass. Bible Study: Exodus 12:1-8,11-14, Ps. 116:12-13,15-18, 1 Corinthians 11:23-26, John 13:1-15).

@Rev. Fr. Evaristus E. Abu