Mass of the Lord's Supper, 2018
"YOU OUGHT TO WASH ONE ANOTHER'S FEET": JESUS' MATCHING GIFT FOR US.
At the end of the Feast of the Lord's Supper the altar is stripped and everything assumes a silent posture. The realities of the passion and death of Christ become obvious. Jesus asks the question above, "Do you realize what I have done for you?" He takes the role of a servant in the midst of his disciples. He washes their feet to show that greatness lies in service. The evangelist John presents the Eucharistic theology that depicts Jesus' servant role through washing of the disciples' feet. Today's liturgy has three major components: 1. The expression of love 2. The institution of the Blessed Eucharist. 3. The institution of the sacred priesthood.
THE INSTITUTION OF LOVE
The gospel narrates, "Jesus loved his own in the world and loved them to the end". It is this love that we witness in both the washing of the feet and his sacrifice on the cross. Jesus loves us even when our feet are dirty, when we become filthy. He wants to clean us up, he bends down to wash us. Jesus keeps aside his divine dignity for our sake. He leaves us an example to imitate, "I have given you a model to follow" (Jn.13:15). God's love is experienced in his creation.
THE INSTITUTION OF THE BLESSED EUCHARIST
At the Last Supper, Christ instituted the Blessed Eucharist for the following reasons:
- To perpetuate the sacrifice of the Cross throughout the ages.
- To entrust to his spouse, the Church, a memorial of his passion, death and resurrection.
- To institute a sacrament of love, a sign of unity, a bond of charity, a paschal banquet (CCC 1322-1323).
The first reading foreshadows these images in the Jewish Passover/Ritual meal. The Passover was a meal-sacrifice which God intended to strengthen bonds of unity between him and the Hebrew people, and also among the members of the community. God said to Moses, "If a family is too small for a whole lamb, it shall join the nearest household in procuring one and shall share the lamb in proportion to the number of persons who partake of it" (Ex.12:4). The Jews shared the Passover meal as a sign of God's love for which he set them free. Some remarkable steps in eating the Passover include:
- The lamb is to be slaughtered with the whole community of Israel present.
- The blood of the lamb is to be sprinkled on the doorposts of the Jewish people signifying the covenant between them and their God.
- God makes them a promise, "When I see the blood, I will pass over you" (Ex.12:13). The Passover meal is thus a memorial for the Jews, not just in the sense of remembering the past but a memorial of the freedom granted them in Egypt, a memorial of God's love.
Saint Paul talks about the tradition he received from the Lord. Jesus took bread, and after he had given thanks, broke it and said, "This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me". He took the cup and said, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me" (1Cor.11:24-26). This is the great sacrifice on the Cross. Christ offered himself to be broken, his "body and blood", his whole person. This is the Blessed Eucharist.
The Eucharist is the sacrament of the body and blood of Christ. It is the Lord's Supper. It is the Breaking of the Bread by the Eucharistic Assembly. It is the Memorial of the Lord's passion, "This day shall be for you a Memorial Day, and you shall keep it as feast to the Lord..." (Ex.12:14; 13:9). It is the Holy Sacrifice. (cf. CCC 1328-1332).
INSTITUTION OF THE SACRED PRIESTHOOD
At the Last Supper, Jesus instituted the holy priesthood. He commanded, "Do this in remembrance of me". That is a mandate given to priests to celebrate the Blessed Eucharist. The Blessed Eucharist is the greatest gift of God to the Church, the "source and summit of all the sacraments". At Mass, it is Christ who presides over the Eucharistic assembly, the priest represents Christ and acts in His Person. When the priest says during the consecration, "Take this and eat", "Take this and drink", it is Christ who gives himself to us. The holy Mass is therefore a celebration of the Lord's Passion, the mystery of his death and resurrection. Today is therefore the celebration of the institution of the priesthood. It is the Feast for priests.
In today’s gospel, Jesus washes the feet of his disciples. He asks them, "Do you realize what I have done for you?" (Jn.13:12). He directs the same question to us. Do we realize what Jesus has done for us? Jesus has given us the Blessed Eucharist. He has given us his body to eat and his blood to drink. He has given us the community, the Church. He has washed our feet, our sins, our dirt, and our iniquities. He has become servant for our sake. He has given us love. Do we realize what that demands from us? Jesus has called us into his love, into his holy family, the Church. Jesus does for us what we call today, “Matching gift”. He wants to match every single act of love we perform. That’s why he says, “If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet”. For each feet you wash, Jesus matches it with another. If you wash five feet, Jesus matches it with another five. That’s the way he multiplies our acts of love. How many feet will you wash for Jesus?