Holy (Maundy) Thursday: Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper: 01 April 2021
|Last Supper of Jesus with his disciples|
To listen to my audio reflections click here
1. A lasting memory of Jesus at the Eucharist
One of the beautiful expressions of our Christian faith is participating in the Eucharist. This great sacrament was instituted on Holy Thursday evening when Jesus ate his last Passover meal with his 12 disciples. Incidentally, this last meal with his apostles on that very dramatic evening in Jerusalem is also solemnized and made as a memorial for the ages to come. This particular meal that Jesus ate with his close disciples is immortalized in the background of Jesus' imminent passion and death on the Cross. There is no other meal in the world that is remembered or repeated as that of Last Supper which took place 2000 years ago.
Today is not a day of preaching but a day of praying. It is not the words that matter to us but the silence and attention to what is happening on that evening. Lord's last supper is full of imageries, symbols and actions. The words of Jesus at that last supper add some sort of colour and aroma to what is taking place in that evening. With this Holy Week, we conclude our fasting, lamentation, and look for many gifts and lessons that Jesus reveals to us during the last Lenten days.
Let us imagine ourselves on that very evening which is full of tension and vibrations. Put yourself in that evening with the disciples and imagine what is happening there. You sit in a corner and watch the scene which unfolds as a drama. As the scripture tells us that it was Jesus who wanted to eat the last Passover meal with his close-knit band of disciples. The whole meal and the evening gets ready almost in sequence as Jesus himself says to his two disciples “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him. Say to the owner of the house he enters, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ He will show you a large room upstairs, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there. The disciples left, went into the city and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover" (Mark 14:13-15).
2. Jesus' whole outlook including meal is communitarian
Jesus in his public ministry did not do any miracle either of healing or of binding alone or in the absence of people. Always his disciples or someone else accompanied him and witnessed it. It was an act of the community. The support and encouragement of the community or friends mattered a lot in Jesus' public ministry. We may assume that Jesus got some sort of assurance, encouragement and security with the presence of his disciples. Jesus never got tired to be with his apostles. The mission of Jesus is the mission of the community. The work of Jesus becomes the work of his disciples. Therefore, Jesus must have instituted the Eucharist that night with the sole purpose of making it a venture of the community, a community that well-knit in every way. We may ask why Jesus did not eat his Passover meal with other people. Why Jesus did not institute the Eucharist while healing those people or while the folk gathered together to listen to him? There is certainly something significant meaning we might be able to attach to it.
Whenever the apostles gathered in Jesus' name, from that time on, the wine and bread would remind them of him and being present. It would, in fact, be his body and blood, our Eucharist. This is a reminder that we will never be without Jesus. Even the agony and episode of Good Friday that Jesus endured would tell us that we need not be in despair. Even in his agony he looks at us and gives us courage, strength and grace. And finally, the glory would be coming. Jesus, the Lord, and Our God humbled himself to serve all of us. What possible reason can we have for not loving and serving any person that God has created? Jesus underlined humility, love and service in the last hours with the disciples.
3. We need to celebrate the past graces
The depth dimension of Christ's act of the last supper is also a commemoration of that great incidence where the Israelites moved safely from the clutches of the Pharaoh and other Egyptians by passing through the dead sea. When Jesus celebrates the first Passover he makes a lasting Passover with our continuing link with this memorial many thousands of years later. As Yahweh said that the first Passover "shall be a memorial feast for you" (Ex 12:14) with Jesus we continue to mark every year with a new meaning and understanding.
Eucharist becomes real when it is celebrated with a joyful and ever-ready witness. To celebrate Eucharist we do not need everyone. It is not a ritual to be performed but a love to be shared. Jesus was ever ready to put himself at the feet of his disciples. As Jesus himself said, "No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not understand what his master is doing. But I have called you friends, because everything I have learned from My Father I have made known to you" (John 15:15).
Jesus' other act on that evening cannot go unnoticed: the washing of the feet of the disciples. Breaking the bread and washing the feet of others go hand in hand. Only when we wash the feet of others, I mean when I serve others, when others become part of my life only then Eucharist becomes meaningful. Jesus takes on himself the role of a slave and washes the disciples’ feet, provoking a protest from Peter. When Jesus washes the feet of his disciples he acts out a kind of prophetic sign or sacrament of his whole life and mission. He is the sacrificial Lamb of God. This is what it means to love ‘to the end’ – to show the incomprehensible love of God. The disciples of Jesus have to be identified as those who follow master's example and love to the end, despite their (and our) failures, fragilities, betrayals and denials. The Eucharistic meal makes sense only if it is linked to a passion, to redemption-your own and others'. It will bear the fruit for which Christ was lifted up only if you become Eucharists for the life of the world.Questions for your Reflections
1. As you imagine Jesus on that Holy Thursday what is in your heart as he acts and speaks?
- Olvin Veigas, SJ
31 March 2021