READINGS, MESSAGE & REFLECTION
Thursday of the Lord’s Supper – 9 April 2020
Exodus 12:1-8,11-14 – The Passover is a day of festival for all generations, for ever
THE Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt: ‘This month is to be the first of all the others for you, the first month of your year.
‘Speak to the whole community of Israel and say, “On the tenth day of this month each man must take an animal from the flock, one for each family: one animal for each household. If the household is too small to eat the animal, a man must join with his neighbour, the nearest to his house, as the number of persons requires.
“You must take into account what each can eat in deciding the number for the animal. It must be an animal without blemish, a male one year old; you may take it from either sheep or goats.
“You must keep it till the fourteenth day of the month when the whole assembly of the community of Israel shall slaughter it between the two evenings. Some of the blood must then be taken and put on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses where it is eaten. That night, the flesh is to be eaten, roasted over the fire; it must be eaten with unleavened bread and bitter herbs.
“You shall eat it like this: with a girdle round your waist, sandals on your feet, a staff in your hand. You shall eat it hastily: it is a passover in honour of the Lord. That night, I will go through the land of Egypt and strike down all the first-born in the land of Egypt, man and beast alike, and I shall deal out punishment to all the gods of Egypt. 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 when I strike the land of Egypt. 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, for ever.”’
1 Corinthians 11:23-26 – Every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are proclaiming the death of the Lord
THIS is what I received from the Lord, and in turn passed on to you: that on the same night that he was betrayed, 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.’ Until the Lord comes, therefore, every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are proclaiming his death.
John 13:1-15 – Now he showed how perfect his love was
IT was before the festival of the Passover, and Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to pass from this world to the Father. He had always loved those who were his in the world, but now he showed how perfect his love was.
They were at supper, and the devil had already put it into the mind of Judas Iscariot son of Simon, to betray him. Jesus knew that the Father had put everything into his hands, and that he had come from God and was returning to God, and 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.
He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, ‘Lord, are you going to wash my feet?’ Jesus answered, ‘At the moment you do not know what I am doing, but later you will understand.’ ‘Never!’ said Peter ‘You shall never wash my feet.’ Jesus replied, ‘If I do not wash you, you can have nothing in common with me.’ ‘Then, Lord,’ said Simon Peter ‘not only my feet, but my hands and my head as well!’ Jesus said, ‘No one who has taken a bath needs washing, he is clean all over. You too are clean, though not all of you are.’ He knew who was going to betray him, that was why he said, ‘though not all of you are.’
When he had washed their feet and put on his clothes again he went back to the table. ‘Do you understand’ he said ‘what I have done to you? You call me Master and Lord, and rightly; so I am. 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.’
MESSAGE TO OUR PARISHIONERS AND OUR ELECT
BY God we have been brought into the Paschal Triduum this year. “Triduum” means the three days from the evening of Holy Thursday to the Evening of Easter Sunday, when we commemorate and celebrate the “Pasch”, the Passover of the Lord who passed over from death to life.
We celebrate three central Mysteries (saving actions) of the Lord during the Triduum: His Institution of the Eucharist, Passion (suffering and death), and Resurrection.
Sadly, and tragically, since the Catholic Church’s foundation in 1881 in Sabah, some 139 years ago, this is the first time that we cannot gather and celebrate the liturgy of the Sacred Triduum. What a heart-breaking record!
Thousands of Catholics in our Archdiocese of Kota Kinabalu, hundreds of you our dear parishioners, will dearly and painfully miss the celebration of Paschal Triduum due to the enforced Movement Control Order (MCO) against the COVID-19 pandemic. I, too, will suffer with you because it’s literally horrible to celebrate the most sacred days alone and privately without the people.
A special group of people will feel it even more keenly, the Elect, those who were chosen for Christian Initiation this Easter.
Since the introduction of the Rite of Christian Initiation (RCIA) in the early 1980s, the Elect have always had a special place every year at Lent in which they prepare themselves and are prepared by the Church intensely, a preparation culminating at Easter Vigil, the Mother of all vigils, when they are baptized, confirmed, and take part fully in the Eucharist for the first time.
The Five Elect
This Christian Initiation of our five Elect this year, namely Siau Hong Shin (Christopher), Daniella Han Hsu Tsyr (Daniella), Wong Soon Loi (Raphael), Wong Yung Ying (Beatrice), Lai Yun Hee (Susan) has been postponed to a later date yet to be announced when the epidemic and pandemic is contained.
Recently, Fr. Nicholas Stephen, Head of the Catechetical Commission sent a warm and brief message of encouragement to all the Elect in the Archdiocese. He spoke of three kinds of baptism accepted as true in the Catholic Church, that of Water, Blood, and Desire. Baptism by water is the normal way a person who believes is made a member of the Church, the Body of Christ.
A believer is also truly baptized if he dies for his faith in Jesus Christ, by Blood. Two thousand years of history filled with persecutions even up to today, we have had countless catechumen martyrs. We have not just considered these martyrs as Catholics but as saints in the Church of God. Even in Asia, we have many, in Korea, Japan, Vietnam. And lastly, if a believing catechumen dies without the possibility of receiving baptism by water, he is considered baptized, by his true Desire for baptism.
We would like to say to and affirm our five Elect: If you have believed in Jesus Christ, repented and converted, there is no way you will not be a Christian, a member of Christ’s Holy Church. Take heart! In all appearances you may seem abandoned sharing the same pain like Jesus dying alone and feeling abandoned on the cross. But God never abandons us! And if God is for you in your baptismal desire, nobody and no power on earth or in heaven can stop you! Look at the postponement of your Christian Initiation as a unique blessing and privilege. May you be tested like gold!
In like manner, I say the same also to those who have been prepared and accepted for the Sacrament of Confirmation with the Elect! I say the same too to you all our parishioners who have walked the Lenten journey and must renew your baptismal promises at Easter whether at home or in the church.
Please don’t forget to profess the Apostles’ Creed on Easter Vigil, all of you the Elect (who were supposed to return it on Holy Saturday morning), all of you the candidates for Confirmation, and all of you dear parishioners. Before the Profession of faith in the Apostles’ Creed, please reject the devil and all his empty promises. I will remember to give you these texts in our reflection for Easter Vigil.
In the meantime, you the Elect believe and share our Christian faith. You too must take part in the saving mysteries of Christ’s suffering, death and resurrection and join in His Passover. Your catechists have prepared a program for you to recollect, pray, share and support each other during the Triduum. In true faith give yourselves generously to take part in it. We are with you in spirit and prayer, and we look forward eagerly to your Christian Initiation not too long from now at St. Simon. May God bless you and give you a fruitful preparation for Easter!
IF there is a single word that best describes the Mystery celebrated tonight on Thursday of the Lord’s Supper, it has to be “LOVE”, and this word comes from the first words in today’s gospel:
“It was before the festival of the Passover, and Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to pass from this world to the Father. He had always loved those who were his in the world, but now he showed how PERFECT his LOVE was.”
The Lord’s Perfect Love:
- In giving His life to His own and to all;
- In giving Himself in the Eucharist;
- In giving us an example of how He has loved us in humble service, and commanded us to love each other as He has first loved us.
Love had always been the Lord’s gift to us in all His 33 years on earth. His Perfect love in the Eucharist was His parting gift as He Passed Over from this world to the Father to lead us pass over too from exile and return Home to the Father.
The first reading from Exodus speaks of the Passover, Israel’s liberation, the fleeing from Egypt to the Promised Land, an exodus that was made possible only by the blood of the unblemished lamb smeared on the door posts and lintel of their homes. It was the blood of the lamb which protected and saved them. Seeing the blood on the Israelites’ houses, the angel of death, the plague, would pass them by without entering to ravage.
It was the flesh of the lamb eaten and wholly consumed that would provide them with the energy to take the journey from slavery to freedom, a flight that would be urgent and sure, and for which they must be prepared with their waist girded, sandals on, and a staff in hand, ready to go. This Passover from slavery to freedom was all made possible by the death and blood of the Lamb. Jesus Christ is the Lamb of God whose death and blood have saved us from slavery to freedom, from sin and death to life. Jesus Christ is our Passover.
“A man can have no greater love than to lay down his life for his friends.” (Jn 15:13)
That this perfect love stays and will really be present to become the living source and culmination of His disciples’ life, Jesus instituted the Eucharist on the night He was betrayed. All the Synoptic Gospels have recorded the Institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper (Mt. 26:26-29, Mk14:22-25, Lk 22:19-20).
Tonight, the gospel is from St. John who alone of the 4 evangelists, does not record the actual institution of the Eucharist, but interprets and translates its meaning into humble, loving, fraternal charity with the account of Jesus washing the feet of His 12 disciples.
Institution of the Eucharist
The actual account of the Institution of the Eucharist, however, is not left out. In fact, its earliest account is given us from St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians written latest by early AD 58, many years earlier that any of the 4 gospels. St. Paul tells us that this is what he has received from the Lord and in turn passes it on, an essential Christian tradition therefore, definitely given directly by the Lord to the apostles, and was already been faithfully celebrated in the earliest Christian community in obedience to Master’s command: “Do this as a memorial of me”. St. Paul also declares the Church’s belief in the real presence of Christ: “Until the Lord comes, therefore, every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are proclaiming his death.”
St. John’s gospel was the last of the 4 gospels to be written, around AD 100. By the time he wrote, there was no need to repeat what everyone knew about the Institution of the Eucharist. However, in case Christians should think that the Eucharist was a mere ritual that had no deep implication and meaning in the Christians’ daily life, St. John used the account of Jesus washing the feet of His disciples to draw out its profound significance.
The Lord loved us to the end, He died for us, He gave us the Eucharist, He washed our feet. True and holy love is found in humble service offered and given to all, including our enemies just as the Lord and Master washed the feet of all the 12 including those of Peter and Judas, His betrayers.
‘Do you understand’ he said ‘what I have done to you? You call me Master and Lord, and rightly; so I am. 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.’
Can the Lord be clearer about what love is, what Eucharist is, and what Christian love and service is?
Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est!
Where there is charity and love, there God is!
The Lord and Master, who was humbler than all for accepting death on the cross, now washed the dirty feet of His disciples. Peter had a problem in accepting Jesus’ service. Very often even God Almighty Himself can’t work on us because we are not humble and generous enough to receive.
Of course, it is more blessed to give than to receive, but paradoxically, many, if not all of us are bounded by our pride of independence and self-sufficiency, and would not accept the Jesus’ loving help in the Eucharist, in His humble service to wash our filthy feet that are not allowed to carry us to the Kingdom of God. Let that pride be driven far from us by God’s grace as we begin our Passover with the Lord tonight.
Let’s join St Thomas Aquinas in prayer before we watch the telecast of the Lord’s Supper. St. Thomas was one of the most brilliant minds ever, and a great champion of the Eucharist and the Real Presence. Tonight, his best-known hymn the “Tantum Ergo” (“Down in Adoration” still sung today at every Benediction) will be sung at the Transposition of the Blessed Sacrament to the tabernacle.
Let’s make St. Thomas Aquinas’ Prayer Before (spiritual) Communion our own:
Almighty and everlasting God, behold I come to the Sacrament of Thine only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ: I come as one infirm to the physician of life, as one unclean to the fountain of mercy, as one blind to the light of everlasting brightness, as one poor and needy to the Lord of heaven and earth.
Therefore I implore the abundance of Thy measureless bounty that Thou wouldst vouchsafe to heal my infirmity, wash my uncleanness, enlighten my blindness, enrich my poverty and clothe my nakedness, that I may receive the Bread of Angels, the King of kings, the Lord of lords, with such reverence and humility, with such sorrow and devotion, with such purity and faith, with such purpose and intention as may be profitable to my soul’s salvation.
Grant unto me, I pray, the grace of receiving not only the Sacrament of our Lord’s Body and Blood, but also the grace and power of the Sacrament. O most gracious God, grant me so to receive the Body of Thine only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, which He took from the Virgin Mary, as to merit to be incorporated into His mystical Body, and to be numbered amongst His members. O most loving Father, give me grace to behold forever Thy beloved Son with His face at last unveiled, whom I now purpose to receive under the sacramental veil here below.