Scripture: Lectionary 40 for Holy Thursday, April 5, 2012: Exodus 12:1-8,11-14. Psalm 116:12-13.15-16.17-18. I Corinthians 11:23-26. John 13:1-15
We are blessed with readings which are perfect for meditation on the mystery of God’s liberating love seen in the Exodus, and God’s enduring and intimate love in the selection from Paul and the Gospel text of chapter 13:1-15 in John. A short reflection is given to each of the readings today including the Psalm 116.
EXODUS: “The impending Exodus is visualized as the start of a new order of life that will be dominated by the consciousness of God’s active presence in history. The religious calendar of Israel is henceforth to reflect this reality by numbering the months of the year from the month of Exodus.” (Etz Haim p.380). The actual date given to this special first month is Nisan 14th and it is in our months of either March or April. It is based on a lunar calendar. The reading is most appropriate for understanding Holy Thursday and the institution of the Eucharist by Jesus in what we call the Lord’s Supper. Both the Passover (Pesach) and Easter are close to one another respectively in their calendar indications. The text from Exodus is most important as the foundation text for the liberation of the People of God, Israel. The feast is a family and national liturgical celebration. The goal of the feast is the pilgrimage into the Promised Land. This may take place actually or spiritually through remembering this passage of Exodus which then gives the formation for the Passover Haggadah or retelling the narrative of the Exodus. When Jesus celebrated the Passover it was connected with the Festival of Unleavened Bread. St. Mark seems to be aware of this in his introduction to the Last Supper narrative. We read in Mark 14:1: “The feasts of Passover and Unleavened Bread were to be observed in two days time…”
PSALM 116: This psalm is an individual psalm of thanksgiving and thus rejoices in the gift of God to the People of Israel and then through Christian interpretation to the gift of the Eucharist. It is one of my favorite psalms because of its personal elements and because it connects me as a believer to participate in the liturgy of the word and the Eucharist. My whole being is drawn by the words which seem to be so close to the way I like to thank God. This psalm has been used both in the Jewish liturgy at the Passover and in the Church’s liturgy for the Institution of the Eucharist. In both Jewish and Christian worship services it is an excellent response of thanksgiving to God who heals us of our infirmities both of mind and body. It is a perfect psalm for Passover and Easter.
I CORINTHIANS 11:23-26: Paul words are the first written ones on the institution of the Eucharist probably written in 57 A.D. Mark, the first written Gospel, will appear somewhere in the time frame of 65-70 A.D. Luke’s composition will resemble the words of Paul the most (Luke 22:15-20). The act of remembering (the anamnesis) is essential and parallels the Exodus text above: “This day shall be a memorial feast for you, which all your generations shall celebrate with pilgrimage to the Lord, as a perpetual institution.” (Exodus 12:14). For Paul this is expressed in the following sentence: “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me…Our blessing cup is a communion with the blood of Christ.”
JOHN 13:1-15: In the washing of the feet of his disciples, Jesus shows us the continued love and intimacy he has with them. The love is symbolized by washing their feet. We need to celebrate this Holy Thursday with sentiments of thanksgiving combined with humility. If the Lord Jesus humbled himself and served and washed the feet of his disciples, we should do the same for our fellow brothers and sisters. John’s theological introduction to this action emphasizes the agape love of Jesus (perfect, intimate, profound and enduring). The Evangelist prefaces the action of the humble washing of the feet in this inspired sentence:
“Before the festival of the Passover, Jesus realized that the hour had come for him to pass from this world to the Father. He had loved his own in this world, and would show his love for them to the end.” The phrase “to the end” also has the meaning to the very depths of his love which endures.” We listen to the words of Jesus telling us, “If I washed your feet—who am Teacher and Lord—then you must wash each other’s feet. What I did was to give you an example; as I have done, so must you do.” (John 13:1,15). Amen.