Mass of the Lord's Supper
April 13, 2017
Holy Thursday, Mass of the Lord’s Supper
The “Easter triduum” are three days that constitute one single celebration. Any one of them without the others is incomplete.
The Easter Vigil celebrates the resurrection of Jesus as the mystery that gives meaning to all human life and history. But without the celebration of Christ’s sacrificial death on Good Friday, Easter would be unintelligible. And without the institution of the Eucharist, celebrated on Holy Thursday, Christ’s death and resurrection would be a thing of the past — reported, remembered and relied-upon – but present only to God in the transcendent “Now” of eternity; not present to us in the time and place of the world we live in. Taken together, they reveal Christian life as an individual and communal presence to and participation in the ongoing act of love by which the Father, Son and Spirit redeemed the world. The Liturgy of the Word is to help us understand this mystery. We listen to the readings as disciples eager to learn.
Exodus 12: 1-14: “This month shall stand at the head of your calendar.” Time counts, and we should count time, not just numerically by adding hours and days, but historically, seeing it as a series of events. The events are what give time meaning. By celebrating events we absorb their meaning into our lives and pass that meaning on to others.
The readings that are part of the celebration do three things: they tell the story of the events, remind us to keep them in memory, and explain to us their meaning. Where the meaning is expressed in symbols, the readings tell us what those symbols say.
Reading God’s word is always part of our celebration. It lets us understand what we celebrate. Celebration makes what is proclaimed or taught in the word real and active in our lives — especially our communal lives. Liturgy unites light to life and us to one another in the “communion of the Holy Spirit.”
1Corinthians 11:23-26 is an example: the words present the mystery “handed on” to us. But we proclaim it as a community every time we “eat this bread and drink this cup.”
In John 13: 1-15 Jesus teaches us how to participate in Mass. “Do you realize what I have done?” It is not enough to see and hear; we have to think, meditate, absorb the meaning of the words, gestures and symbols. And keep doing it: “You may not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” Hearing should prompt personal reflection and communal discussion.
And we have to act on what we hear: “As I have done, so you must do.” Hearing should lead to decisions. Jesus is both “Teacher” and “Lord.” His words are not just data; they are directions — to be acted on.
Initiative: Don’t leave Mass without making a decision based on what you heard.