Mass of the Lord’s Supper

1 April 2010
Deacon Les Ruhrmund

“A time to serve on our knees”

Tonight is the start of the most important and most holy days in the year. Over the next three days, in this Triduum, we honour and celebrate an event that is almost impossible to understand fully or to appreciate adequately. The significance of the Triduum is as momentous to Christians as it is to non-Christians. We are celebrating the salvation of all humanity from eternal darkness.

On this night Jesus is with his disciples celebrating the Jewish feast of Passover; celebrating the escape of their ancestors from slavery in Egypt to freedom in the Promised Land; celebrating that night long ago when they were saved by the blood of the lamb. The disciples at supper with Jesus that night didn’t realise it then, but they were sharing the Passover meal with the true Lamb of God who that same day would shed his blood and give his life to save the world.

The Passover Meal finishes with grace and a cup of wine.

Jesus took the cup and gave it to his disciples saying “Take this, all of you, and drink from it: this is the cup of my blood, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant. It will be shed for you and for all so that sins may be forgiven.”  

In John’s Gospel, the crucifixion of Jesus takes place at the same time at which the Passover lambs were being slaughtered in the Temple.

We can’t imagine the enormity of the burden or the vastness of Jesus’ love that night as he prepared to sacrifice himself under the weight of our sinfulness. But we can imagine for a moment how he felt in his humanity dining for the last time with his disciples. He must have been profoundly sad that this was the end of the journey. As a man he had been able to physically touch and hug and love and laugh and cry with friends and family with whom he had shared his life closely. And they had been so close to him that they could see and touch and hear him; love him, serve him and adore him. But Jesus didn’t come into the world for those few alone – he came for all of us. And he wants all of us for all time to know that the promise of everlasting life with God has been fulfilled through his passion, death and resurrection. He wants all of us to be present at the Last Supper; he wants all of us to see him, touch him and love him.

He broke the bread and gave it to his disciples and said:

“Take this all of you and eat it: this is my body which will be given up for you. Do this in memory of me.”

He is with us and we can see him, hear him and touch him every time we celebrate the Eucharist.

The Last Supper in John’s Gospel is not a Passover meal. John rather gives importance to the washing of feet. By the time John’s Gospel was written, the Christian community was already celebrating the Eucharist regularly and John reminds them of the significance of this sacrament. Jesus washing the feet of his disciples is a shocking but unforgettable act of love and service for them to remember and copy as his disciples. John tacitly urges them as he urges us to pass from the liturgy to action, from memory to imitation. The Creator knees in love and humble service before those that he has created in his own image and he washes their feet; he washes even the feet of Judas who was to betray him. Later that night he buckles to his knees again in love and humble service to God the Father; offering himself completely in sacrifice.

We too need to be reminded that discipleship is more than liturgy and words; discipleship is putting what we believe into action. We are called to be both servants of God and servants of each other. 

“Do as I have done” says Jesus.

“I have given you an example so that you may copy what I have done to you.”                          

For centuries the Church has imitated the Lord through the enactment of the washing of feet on Holy Thursday. We are reminded that we are committed as Christians to lives of service and that this is a symbol of our need for renewed cleansing and forgiveness, made possible by the love of God and the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

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