Homily for Holy Thursday Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper Year A
Theme: Institution of the Holy Eucharist
By: Fr. Cyril Unachukwu CCE
Homily for Thursday April 9 2020
The Last Supper of our Lord Jesus Christ with His disciples was a moment of mixed feelings; a period of teaching to His disciples of what is central for our common existence and sustenance and of the true meaning of followership of Christ. It was a moment of perpetuation of His presence in our midst through His institution of the Holy Eucharist. In the Holy Eucharist, we sacramentally encounter Christ in the deepest and most intimate of ways; we receive the very fount of all graces and we enter into the Paschal Mysteries. May the power in the Holy Eucharist strengthen us always for love and for service; Amen.
The Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper properly begins the Paschal Triduum; the three days that bridges the Seasons of Lent and Easter, in which the Church re-enacts, liturgically, the Suffering, Death and Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. At the Last Supper, our Lord Jesus Christ instituted the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist as the New and Everlasting Covenant in His blood. The Evening Mass of the Last Supper specifically commemorates that very day and that very act of the Institution of the Eucharist; and consequently of the Institution of the Sacred Priesthood that is celebrated in the morning of today. The Second Reading (I Cor 11:23-26) made reference to the very words of the Institution of the Holy Eucharist by Christ; “the Lord Jesus took some bread, and thanked God for it and broke it, and he said, this is my body, which is for you; do this as a memorial of me. In the same way He took the cup after supper, and said, this cup is the new covenant in my blood. Whenever you drink it, do this as a memorial of me.” In these words, we come to understand the more that the Eucharist is the Sacrament of true presence; for Christ is really and substantially present in the Holy Eucharist. Also, in these words, we come to understand that the Eucharist is a Memorial Service of the life and mission of our Lord Jesus Christ. Further still, the Eucharist is a Thanksgiving Banquet, the greatest act of gratitude to God for the manifold blessings He has given us in Christ. And most profoundly, the Eucharist is Sacrifice, the Sacrifice of the New and Everlasting Covenant ratified by the blood of Christ on the Cross. This Covenant was prefigured from of old in the covenant God made with the people of Israel through Moses in the First Reading (Ex 12:1-8, 11-14); “I am the Lord! The blood shall serve to mark the houses that you live in. When I see the blood I will pass over you and you shall escape the destroying plague… This day is to be a day of remembrance for you, and you must celebrate it as a feast in the Lord’s honour.” The fundamental difference between the old covenant and the New and Everlasting Covenant is; the first was ratified by the immolation and the sprinkling of the blood of animals whereas the latter was ratified by the immolation and the shedding of the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God and the Son of man, true God and true Man; the spotless Lamb that takes away the sin of the world. At the Last Supper, when He instituted this New and Everlasting Sacrifice in His blood, He taught us, through His disciples, a lesson that has remained indelible through the ages. To teach us the proper lifestyle and attitude that must be associated with those who partake in this New Covenant; “He got up from table, removed His outer garment and, taking a towel, wrapped it round His waist; He then poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel He was wearing” (John 13:1-15). This gesture changed forever the disciples’ understanding and perception of their Master; it changed our view of what Christianity is all about and of the virtues that sincere participation in the Sacrifice of Christ and reception of the Holy Eucharist breeds in the lives of those who believe.
One of the things the world needs most, to be a better place, is the disposition in each and every one of us to wash the feet of his or her brothers and sisters. Washing the feet of the other is never destructive but rather creative; it is never derogatory of the one who does it but rather configures one into the likeness and magnitude of Christ. It is an act that cleanses the dirt that must have accumulated on the feet as a result of long trekking and making it clean again and beautiful to behold. Washing the feet of the other here signifies understanding the human conditions of those around us, their limitations and short-comings; their gullibilities and fallibilities; but also of their capacity to be better and to progress towards perfection. Washing the feet of the other means helping others to overcome their weaknesses in love. Washing the feet of the other implies recognising his or her uniqueness and difference and leading those around us to God. This is Christian service and love; and this is what Christ did to each and every one of us in the disciples. Humanly speaking, it is a very difficult gesture to perform especially when human classification and categorization deceptively make us to believe that we are superior to those around us. However, it is an attitude and style of life that is possible to achieve and to imbibe as habit for life. The power and strength to do this is given by and received from our Lord Jesus Christ who is substantially present in the Eucharist. He was the most superlatively Superior in the room of the Last Supper, but He bent down to wash the feet of His disciples to show us that always being positive of others and being at the service of others are the path to the erection of a new world order; a new humanity inspired by the values of Christ.
Lord Jesus Christ, You are the Eternal High Priest of the New and Everlasting Covenant, make us daily to progress in our understanding and reverence of the depth of the Mystery of the Holy Eucharist, to humbly, actively and sincerely participate in its celebration and to receive in full the remedies of our human brokenness which you have mercifully and graciously made available for those who believe, under the appearances of bread and wine; Amen.
May you have a Fruitful and Grace-filled Celebration; Fr Cyril CCE