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Thursday, April 9, 2009

Homily for Holy Thursday

When we read the Scriptures as Christians, it's easy to see striking parallels between the events described in the Old Testament and what we believe to have been revealed by Jesus in the establishment of the New Covenant. In fact, we believe that the Old Covenant was a preparation for the coming of Our Lord and points to Him, so it shouldn't be a surprise that there is a direct parallel between the Passover in Egypt and the Eucharist which Jesus established before His death on the Cross.

For the Jewish people, the celebration of the Passover is the high point of the year, so much so that, as we see in the first reading, the month in which the Passover occurs is the first month in the traditional Jewish calendar. For those who are Jewish, Passover is not merely a time for celebrating something that happened thousands of years ago, but is renewed year after year. Through the blood of the sacrificed lamb smeared on the doorposts, the Israelite people were spared from the slavery of Egypt and the death which was brought down upon the Egyptian firstborn. To this day, the Passover represents the unique relationship that the Jewish people have with God in being the people He chose as His own.

As Christians, we also have a Passover celebration, but instead of partaking in a sacrificed lamb once a year, we partake in the Sacrifice of the Lamb of God through our celebration of the Eucharist. Every time the Sacrifice of the Mass is offered, we are not merely remembering Our Lord's death on the Cross, but are once again a part of that Sacrifice, united with all those in the past, present, and future who participate in this Sacrifice. By the Blood of Our Lord, we are spared from the slavery to sin and death that all humanity suffers under, and unite ourselves to the New Passover by receiving the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord in the form of bread and wine.

Just as the Passover from Egypt marked the Israelites as God's Chosen People, our participation in the Eucharist also makes us part of the Chosen People of God. As members of God's Chosen People, we follow Our Lord's commandments, but also are called to follow His example. Before sacrificing Himself on the Cross, Jesus humbled Himself to serve His disciples by the most menial of tasks: washing their feet. We may not be comfortable with foot washing today, but it would have been worse in Jesus' time. Most people wore very basic sandals and walked along dusty roads which had also been used by animals. Foot washing would have been essential upon arriving at a destination, but was reserved for lower servants, if the household had any.

By Our Lord washing the feet of the disciples, he showed that he was not only their master, but also came to serve. He challenged them to serve others as He served them; He also challenges us to do the same. Washing others' feet may not have as much importance today, but it shows us that we need to be aware of opportunities to humbly enter into service of others, especially those we may consider less than ourselves. Our participation in the Eucharist should lead us to emulate Our Lord without concern for ourselves, and bring us to a greater concern for those who are less fortunate than we are.

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