Maundy (Holy) Thursday – Readings

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 it is 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 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 death and 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.

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