Dear Friends! Today, we celebrate three anniversaries: 1) the anniversary of the first Holy Mass, 2) the anniversary of the institution of ministerial priesthood to perpetuate the Holy Mass, to convey God’s forgiveness to repentant sinners and to preach the good news of salvation, 3) the anniversary of the promulgation of Jesus’ new commandment of love: “Love one another as I have loved you.”
One day the professor of Eucharistic theology came in and said that they were going to learn the significance of the Lord’s Supper. As he began to talk he reached into pocket and pulled a wooden rosary and showed them saying, I have this rosary since 1942. I had a son who went off to the war that year. When he left he gave me this wooden rosary, and told me to keep it there until he came home. Since then I have it always in my pocket. I always remember him. And I have been waiting. Waiting for my son to come back, and each time I pray the rosary, I remember my son.” Dear friends! I am sure you all have something precious that someone gave you ( your parents, grandparents, son/daughter). And you always remember them whenever you see those precious gift.
Eucharistic celebration is about waiting and remembering. Each time, we, as a community of faith, gather around the table to take the consecrated bread and chalice we are remembering, and we are proclaiming that we are waiting for our Lord to return.
The second anniversary we celebrate today is the anniversary of the institution of the Ministerial Priesthood! The Priesthood was born during the Last Supper, as Pope John Paul II reminded us (Letter to Priests for Holy Thursday 2004 §1). There were many priests in the Old Covenant but there is one Priest, Christ, in the New Covenant and he has extended his priestly ministry to us his ordained priests.
While some find it difficult to talk of Jesus as Priest, Scripture is very clear that Jesus is the Priest of the New Covenant. A priest is someone who offers sacrifice. There were many animals sacrificed in the Old Covenant by the Jewish priests, but there is one sacrifice offered in the New Covenant, the sacrifice of Jesus in his priestly offering of himself on the cross. Scripture talks of Christ’s death as a sacrifice because he is the Priest of the New Covenant; “Christ loved us and handed himself over for us as a sacrificial offering to God” (Eph 5:2) “you were ransomed…with the precious blood of Christ as of a spotless unblemished lamb.” (1 Pet 1:18-19)
During Mass that one sacrifice of Jesus as the Priest of the New Covenant is extended to us through time and made present to us. Part of the ordination rite of priests in the Old Covenant involved washing. (Ex 29:4; Lev 8:6). During the Last Supper, during which the priesthood was born and Jesus consecrated his apostles as the priests of the New Covenant, he washed their feet. Thanks be to God for the gift of the Priesthood! The priests of the New Covenant continue the mission of Jesus the Priest. Please pray for more vocations to the priesthood and support vocations to the priesthood.
Jesus gives us priests so that we may have the Eucharist. Jesus does not want our celebration of the Eucharist to be cut off and separated or divorced from the rest of our lives. Our celebration of the Eucharist is to affect our entire lives. What kind of an effect is it to have on our lives? Jesus washing his disciples’ feet in the context of the Last Supper surely teaches us that the Eucharist is linked with service.
Our celebration of the Eucharist should lead us to love all our brothers and sisters in a sacrificial way. Just as Jesus took the bread, blessed it, broke it and gave it, when we receive the Eucharist we are to allow ourselves to be taken by Jesus, blessed, broken and given in love for others. In that sense the words of Paul in our second reading tonight become true, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes” (1 Cor 11:26)
Our celebration of the Eucharist sends us out from here to love and serve the Lord in others.
Thanks be to God for the gift of the Priesthood and thanks be to God for the Eucharist!