Catholic Homily for Holy Thursday (Evening mass of the Lord’s Supper)
Homily Theme: Institution of the Holy Eucharist
By: Fr. Cyril Unachukwu CCE
Christ is the One Eternal Priest of the New Covenant, Who offered and offers the One Sacrifice that takes away the sins of the world. Being the One Eternal Priest, He is also the only one and indispensable Mediator between God and humanity. As Priest, His primary duty is to mediate through this One Sacrifice, bringing God to all men and women; and leading and reconciling all men and women to God and with God. In the Holy Eucharist, He makes the reality of the one Sacrifice He offered on the Cross, powerfully and efficaciously present for all and for all generations, in every possible space and time, through the ministry of priests. May our participation in the Eucharistic Table bring us to partake in the eternal life of the holy Victim of the Eucharistic Sacrifice; Amen.
With the Liturgy of this evening, the Paschal Triduum begins. This unique celebration, the Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper, commemorates the Institution of the Holy Eucharist by Christ as the Sacrament of His body and blood under the appearances of bread and wine. This act of institution took place at the Lord’s Last Supper with His disciples within which He blessed bread and wine, handing these over to them as His body and blood with the command to “do this as a memorial of me” (I Cor 11:23-26). We celebrate the Eucharist because the Lord commanded us to do so in memory of Him. We celebrate the Eucharist because it is the very Sacrament of our Salvation; “he or she who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:54). To speak of the Last Supper, our minds immediately connect with the experience of the people of Israel in Egypt. As part of the rites to mark their last days of slavery in Egypt, God commanded the people, through Moses, to prepare for the Passover Feast, through which He manifested His sovereign power over Egypt and showed His protection over the people of Israel under the scourge of slavery in Egypt. As we read in the First Reading (Exodus 12:1-8, 11-14); “When I see the blood I will pass over you… This day is to be a day of remembrance for you, and you must celebrate it as a feast in the Lord’s honour. For all generations you are to declare it a day of festival.” The Passover Feast, within which the rite of the Lord’s Supper took place, was a commemoration of the liberation of the people of Israel from slavery in Egypt and of the grand manifestation of God’s love for them and of God’s protection over them. Just as the Passover experience in Egypt was a very important instance in the preparatory process of the Covenant God made with Israel through Moses that was ratified at Mount Sinai (Exodus 24), so also will the Lord’s Supper, which we commemorate this evening, be an important instance in the preparatory process of the New and Everlasting Covenant which God entered with the whole of humanity, that will be ratified on the Cross by the death of Christ.
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The sequence of the unfolding of Jesus’ Last Supper with His disciples as we read in the Gospel of this evening (John 13:1-15) informs also the liturgical sequence of this evening’s celebration. The nostalgic elements of the actual Last Supper and of the commemoration of the Lord’s Supper in the Liturgy bring us to appreciate the immensity of God’s gift of Himself to us in Christ and to recognise who God wants us to be and how He wishes us to live. Of note is the Liturgy of Procession with the Eucharistic Bread and Adoration at the Altar of Repose with which the celebration of this evening is concluded, we profess our faith in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharistic species, as we also keep vigil with the Lord in agony for His impending Passion and Death (Mt 26:40). Unique also is the Liturgy of the Washing of the Feet, re-enacting the actual washing of the feet of the disciples by Jesus. The Jewish act of washing the feet was absolutely the responsibility of a servant in any given household. With this act, Jesus taught His disciples of the centrality of service to the Christian life; “if I, then, the Lord and Master, have washed your feet, you should wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example so that you may copy what I have done to you.” Service is one of the linking points between the reality of anointing, the priesthood and the Holy Eucharist. The Priest is anointed for service and to offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Eucharist _in persona Christi_! The Holy Eucharist is at the service of our integral welfare! Faithfully partaking in the Table of the Eucharist, we become a Eucharistic family; a people sustained by the spiritual, moral and physical benefits of the Eucharistic meal. This participation transforms us into a people at the service of God and at the service of one and another. Service is one of the distinguishing marks of one who partakes of the Eucharistic Table. Our availability to serve God in our brothers and sisters makes the presence of Christ felt around us and makes us truly Christians. As we celebrate these mysteries of our faith, we are also invited to reflect on the immensity of God’s love for us in making these divine remedies available and accessible to us. It is also an opportunity to evaluate the level of our appreciation of the centrality of these mysteries in our Christian life and our faithfulness to the terms of our redemption.
Lord, renew each and every one of us in Your love. May we make ourselves open and docile to the many graces You make available to us; and may we be faithful in following the example of life of our Eucharistic Lord, Jesus Christ the Emmanuel; Amen.
May you have a Grace-filled celebration of the Easter Triduum.
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