Holy Thursday (Fr. Vinner)
CELEBRATING CHRIST IN THE HOLY EUCHARIST
My Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
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.
Today the Church celebrates the wonderful gift of God to her and the entire world – the institution of the Holy Eucharist. The Eucharist is the food that God has generously and providentially made available to us in order to nourish us on our spiritual journey. According to Pope Francis, “The Eucharist is not just a weekly way of celebrating our faith, but should radically affect our relationship with others, especially with those most in need.” The Eucharist gives us the grace to feel forgiven and be ready to forgive others. We go to Mass, not because we are worthy or want to appear better than others. Rather, it is because we know that we are always in need of God’s love, grace, and mercy. These come to us through the body and blood of Christ. The Eucharist affects the life of our Christian communities. So the church receives her mission and identity from the Eucharist.
The institution of the Holy Eucharist by Christ on Holy Thursday equally marks the institution of the ministerial priesthood. So, the priesthood is both God’s gift and a mystery. This means that it is God who freely calls and, decides who to call. The mystical nature of the priesthood derives first, from the lives of Melchizedek and, second from Christ.This mystical nature also reaches its fullness at the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday and at every Mass. That is, the consecration of bread and wine, which is transformed into the real body and blood of Christ. Therefore the priest is the defender of the truth. He stands with the angels to give glory to God. He causes sacrifices to rise to God. He shares in Christ’s priesthood, refashions creation, and restores it in God’s image.
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.
Finally, today we must emulate the Humility of Jesus. In today’s Gospel, he chose to wash the feet of his disciples. He also feeds them not only with physical food but also, with spiritual food. This is in order to show and teach us that we must be ready to serve our brothers and sisters. Instead of struggling to be the leader and the chief at all times, let us like Jesus, aspire to be the servant of others. The joy of working in the vineyard of the Lord comes mostly from serving others, rather than from being served. However, this is possible only through a humble heart prepared for service. Once again, congratulations to all the faithful of God, who love Jesus in the Holy Eucharist.
Peace be with you all!
FR. S.Vinner HGN