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Commentary on Exodus 12:1-8,11-14; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26
TODAY’S SCRIPTURE READINGS cover the whole sweep of what today’s feast means.
The first reading is a description of the Jewish Passover Meal. It is a sacramental re-enactment of the meal taken by the Israelites before their flight across the Red Sea from Egypt. A flight from slavery to freedom and liberation. This, once a year commemoration, could be called the “Eucharist” of the Jews. Except that they celebrate it just once a year and not weekly or even daily, as we do. It is a sacred remembering of God’s great act to liberate them from slavery and the beginning of their long journey to the Promised Land. It is no coincidence that it was precisely during the celebration of this meal that Jesus instituted what we now call the Sacrament of the Eucharist. Here is the link between the Hebrew and the Christian Covenants.
In the Second Reading, Paul recalls what Jesus did during that Last Supper, that Passover Meal. He took the bread at the table and said it was his Body. He took the cup of wine and said it was his Blood to be poured out for us. These actions were to be repeated by his followers in memory of the liberation brought about for us through his suffering, death and resurrection.
Three events are thus united into a new mystery:
- the Jewish Passover and Paschal Meal;
- the whole Paschal Mystery of Jesus: suffering, death and resurrection.
- the linking of the bread and wine and its communal eating with the sacrificial death and the
resurrection of Jesus;
There is a new liberation, not just from physical slavery, but from every kind of slavery, especially that of sin and evil. There is now a new Pasch and a new Passover. There is a new Lamb, the Lamb of God. There is a new unleavened bread, the Bread that is the Body of the Risen Lord. The blood of the lamb is now replaced with the Blood of the Lamb, Jesus, who takes away the sin of the world.
Commentary on John 13:1-15
The Gospel links all this with the concrete reality of our lives. It says nothing about the Pasch or the Passover. It says nothing about the Eucharist, or the Body and Blood of Jesus. Instead it speaks of Jesus, Lord and Master, getting down on his knees and washing the feet of his disciples. It is this spirit of love and service of brothers and sisters which is to be the outstanding characteristic of the Christian disciple.
And this is the true living out of the Eucharistic celebration. To have one without the other is not to live the Gospel. And so the words of the Eucharist are also repeated here: “Do this in memory of me.”
Not to celebrate the Eucharist in community and not to spend our energies in love and service of each other is not to be living the Gospel. Our Christian living is a seamless robe between Gospel, liturgy and daily life and interaction.