This Evenings Mass of the Lord's Supper officially begins the Easter Triduum. In preparation for the commemoration of the glorious Resurrection of Jesus on Easter Sunday, we begin by recounting the New and the Last Covenant that Jesus made with humankind.
The origin of the New Covenant is found in the instructions for the Passover Meal in the book of Exodus. There as a symbol of what was to come, God commanded Moses and his people to take a young one year old male lamb without blemish. The whole congregation was to assemble and slaughter the lamb at twilight. Then, they were to take the blood of the lamb and place it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they ate.
On that night, they were to eat lamb with unleavened bread and bitter herbs, later that night, in judgment of the false gods of Egypt; the Lord would pass over the land and strike down the firstborn, both human beings and animals, proving that He is the Lord God. Those whose houses were marked by the blood of the lamb were protected from the judgment of God. That night, known as the Passover, come to pass and was remembered annually as the festival of he Lord.
In the event of the Passover, we see many images of what was to come. The young male lamb that was without blemish and that was to be sacrificed was the prophetic image of Jesus who was the Lamb of God, who knew no sin and who gave his life for our salvation, our life, and our resurrection.
The meal of the unleavened bread was symbolic of our participation in this Eucharist which provides us with the food for our spiritual journey. The blood on the frame of the doors was symbolic of those who are protected by the Blood of Christ because they walk their journey by implementing the teachings of the Lamb of God---Jesus the Christ.
Two thousands years ago, in preparation for the Passover, Jesus celebrated the Last Supper with his disciples. During that event, there was no sacrificial lamb because Jesus was the Lamb that was about to be sacrificed. At the Last Supper, Jesus took the bread, gave thanks, broke the bread and said, "This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me." (1 Cor. 11:24). Then He took the cup and said, "This is the cup of the New Covenant in My blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me. (1 Cor. 11:25).
The Words of Jesus during the Last Supper put an end to the imperfect Old Covenant of the Law that God had made with the Jewish people. The Old covenant foreshadowed the New Covenant that was to come through the sacrificial death and glorious resurrection of Jesus-the Lamb of God. Through this New Covenant, the prophetic images of the Passover came to fulfillment. The New Covenant of God with humankind opened the doors to heaven for all people. That is why we the faith community of Jesus Our Shepherd welcome all present to receive Eucharist; the bread of life; and drink from the cup of the Blood of Christ. This is the food we all need-not only once but for a life time until Jesus will come to take us by the hand and lead us home.
In His public ministry, for three years Jesus spent hours with his disciples sharing with them why He came and what he demanded of His followers. The 3 synoptic Gospels of Mathew, Mark and Luke relate the institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper. However the Gospel of John which we heard tonight was written about 60 to 70 years after the Resurrection of Jesus. The Eucharist had been established in the small communities. John's Gospel was written with the purpose to show that this new Christianity was for all people-all are welcome---all must be servants to each other as Jesus was servant to the apostles and disciples. In the reading from the Gospel of John we heard tonight Jesus lays out unequivocally, that we must be humble servants to all. We must shed the outer masks that hide us. We must reach out to each other in our pain and in our need. People in the days of Jesus walked everywhere they went. The roads were hard and dusty. The journey was long and tedious. The sun was hot and burning. By days end many were tired and worn out. We must show love for each other as Jesus did when He gave his life for us. We must serve each other in whatever way we can to help each other be whole. Jesus not only told the disciples what to do but he did it himself. He removed his outer garments and washed their feet relieving them of the day's pain and making them feel whole once again.
Tonight we invite all to share in this-one of the sacred rituals---the washing of each other's feet. It symbolizes the need to be of service. Spouses are of service to each other; they are of service to their children; children are of service to their parents; friends are of service to others-some whom they do not know.