Holy Thursday

Lord’s Supper (Last supper) is one of the most famous paintings in the world. There are different versions of this painting, but Leonardo da Vinci’s is about the most famous. It took Da Vinci three years to complete the painting, and like any piece of art, this painting has been a subject of different interpretations. However, what is most important is that the event of the Last Supper shows a very significant event in the life of Jesus. It was a farewell meal, which he shared with his disciples in the Upper Room.

In the Old Testament Passover feast, each household in Israel offered a Lamb for sacrifice. On the day before the delivery of Israel from Egypt the people of Israel received an instruction to take some of the blood of the Lamb and apply to the two doorposts and lintel of every house. The blood of this sacrificial lamb saved each household from the scourge of the angel of death. It is significant that the Last Supper of Jesus took place during the celebration of the Israelite Passover. Thus, the Lord’s Supper indicates that Jesus replaces the blood of the sacrificial lamb with his blood, which is poured out for the salvation of many. The event of the Lord’s Supper also presents Jesus as the new Moses through whom God sends the Manna from heaven.

In addition, just as the Passover of the Old Testament was a memorial feast for the people of Israel, so is Passover of the New Testament a memorial feast for the people of the new and eternal covenant. The new Passover feast, popularly known as the Holy Eucharist (Holy Mass), is a sacrifice of thanksgiving. Unlike the old Passover that is celebrated once in a year, the new Passover (the Eucharist) is celebrated always. This is because expression of gratitude for salvation is unlimited. Jesus says: “Do this in remembrance of me… For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes”. As he offers this sacrifice of thanksgiving, Jesus plays the role of Melchizedek, the High Priest who offers Bread and Wine

Holy Thursday is also known as Maundy Thursday because during the celebration of the Last Supper Jesus gives a new mandate to his followers. ‘Maundy’ is a short form of the Latin Mandatum (Mandate) which is taken from the Gospel of John 13:34: “A new commandment I give unto you, That you love one another; as I have loved you”. Jesus translated this new mandate into action when:

“He rose from supper and took off his outer garments. He took a towel and tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and dry them with the towel around his waist.”

Jesus did the unusual on the day of his special supper with his disciples. He washed the feet of Judas who betrayed him; he also washed the feet of Peter who denied him; he stooped to wash the feet of the rest of the Apostles who fled and deserted him when he was arrested. This gesture of Jesus teaches that those who believe in him should serve not only families and friends but should serve also those who oppose and betray them.

Why is this evening celebration different? When we gather here tonight we are given, through the liturgy, a sense of our identity as God’s people, followers of Jesus Christ who gather here in faith to celebrate his memory, to receive him as our food and drink and to love one another.

Holy Thursday challenges all of us, high and low, great and small to become persons for others as Jesus was Man for others, ready to serve others even if it is very menial such as the washing of others’ feet. The Holy Mass in which we participate is not simply a ritual. It represents Jesus giving of himself for others.

Today I request you to pray for the priests: O Jesus, I pray for Your faithful and fervent priests; for Your unfaithful and tepid priests; for Your priests labouring at home or abroad in distant mission fields; for Your tempted priests; for Your lonely and desolate priest; for Your young priests; for Your dying priests; for the souls of Your priests in purgatory. But above all I recommend to You the priests dearest to me; the priest who baptized me; the priests who absolved me from my sins; the priests at whose Masses I assisted and who gave me Your Body and Blood in Holy communion; the priests who taught and instructed me; all the priests to whom I am indebted in any other way. O Jesus, keep them all close to Your heart, and bless them abundantly in time and in eternity. Amen.