• Rev. Lawrence E. Polansky

Thursday of the Lord's Supper (B)

“Jesus loved them to the end ...”

Entrance Antiphon: Gal 6:14 – “We should glory in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, in whom is our salvation, life, and resurrection, through whom we are saved and delivered.”

First Reading: Ex 12:1-8, 11-14 – “The law regarding the Passover meal.”

Responsorial Psalm: Ps 116: 12-13, 15-16bc, 17-18 – “Our blessing-cup is a communion with the Blood of Christ.”

Second Reading: 1 Cor 11:23-26 – “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord.”

Verse before the Gospel: Jn 13:34 – “I give you a new commandment, says the Lord: love one another as I have loved you.”

Gospel: Jn 13:1-15 – “Jesus loved them to the end.”

Communion Antiphon: 1 Cor 11:24-25 – “This is the Body that will be given up for you; this is the Chalice of the new covenant in My Blood, says the Lord; do this, whenever you receive it, in memory of Me.”

Every event has a place in history. Nations rise and fall. Battles are waged, won, or lost. Kings and presidents come and go. Generations of families experience births, weddings, and deaths. Dates mark beginnings and endings. Everything is temporary.

But the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus Christ abides for all time (CCC #1085). His Passion and Death were not merely a tragic historical record that happened in Jerusalem some 2000 years ago. His Resurrection was not merely a phenomenon that was witnessed by devoted followers. These events were part of God’s eternal plan for the salvation of the world – once, for all.

This evening, we begin our three-day liturgy which marks the holiest days of our liturgical year – the Sacred Paschal Triduum. In these days, we encounter the paschal mystery of Christ’s passion, death, and resurrection. We marvel at what Christ has done for us – here and now – and that by “dying he destroyed our death and rising he restored our life” (Preface I of Easter).

To help us understand the continual reality – the perpetuity – of Christ’s salvific act, the Church provides a breadth of readings during these sacred days. Tonight, we recall the story of the Old Testament Passover. Faithful to His covenant, God helps the Israelites escape their slavery in Egypt. He instructs Moses and Aaron to tell the people to slaughter a lamb, put its blood on the doorposts and lintels, and eat and dress as people in flight. While the firstborn of men and beasts in Egypt would die, the Israelites would be spared. This night was to be remembered – a memorial feast which all generations would celebrate “as a perpetual institution” (CCC #1085).

Christ’s institution of the Eucharist is recalled in Saint Paul’s Letter to the Corinthians, where he writes of the night Jesus was handed over. At that Last Supper, the simple Passover meal is transformed as Christ establishes a new and everlasting covenant with all people. Knowing that the hour of His death was near and that He would soon depart the earth in human form, He instituted the Eucharist so that He would remain in sacramental form (CCC #1380). The Church has never failed to heed His commands – “Do this in remembrance of Me.” At this same Last Supper, He washes the feet of His Apostles and instructs them to do likewise. "As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you. Abide in My love" (John 15:9). The Eucharist remains a sacramental sign of Christ’s love and abiding covenant.

Even at the hour of our death, when we receive the Eucharist as viaticum (literally, “with you on the way”), Christ is with us. As He does each day, He will offer us the seed of eternal life and the power of the resurrection (CCC #1524). For as Jesus says, “This is my body that is for you … This cup is the new covenant in my blood … For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until He comes.”

Even during a worldwide pandemic when church doors have sometimes been closed, Jesus Christ has been here. Even when we have had limited access to holy Communion, Jesus Christ has been here, and Jesus Christ has been present to each one of us wherever we have been. Even when we sin or ignore His commands to love one another, Jesus Christ is here. Even in the darkest moments of our lives, when we are experiencing our own dying and rising, Jesus Christ is here. Let us always give thanks to God for so great a gift – the very origin of the word demands it. In Greek, they called it “eukharistos” or “grateful.” We call it “Eucharist.” From age to age, we give thanks to God for the abiding presence of Christ.

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