FIRST READING (The law regarding the Passover meal.)
A reading from the Book of Exodus (12:1-8, 11-14)
The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, “This month shall stand at the head of your calendar; you shall reckon it the first month of the year. Tell the whole community of Israel: On the tenth of this month every one of your families must procure for itself a lamb, one apiece for each household. If a family is too small for a whole lamb, it shall join the nearest household in procuring one and shall share in the lamb in proportion to the number of persons who partake of it. The lamb must be a year-old male and without blemish. You may take it from either the sheep or the goats. You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month, and then, with the whole assembly of Israel present, it shall be slaughtered during the evening twilight. They shall take some of its blood and apply it to the two doorposts and the lintel of every house in which they partake of the lamb. That same night they shall eat its roasted flesh with unleavened bread and bitter herbs.
“This is how you are to eat it: with your loins girt, sandals on your feet and your staff in hand, you shall eat like those who are in flight. It is the Passover of the Lord. For on this same night I will go through Egypt, striking down every firstborn of the land, both man and beast, and executing judgment on all the gods of Egypt—I, the Lord! But the blood will mark the houses where you are. Seeing the blood, I will pass over you; thus, when I strike the land of Egypt, no destructive blow will come upon you.
“This day shall be a memorial feast for you, which all your generations shall celebrate with pilgrimage to the Lord, as a perpetual institution.” —The Word of the Lord.
R. Thanks be to God.
RESPONSORIAL PSALM (116:12-13, 15-16c, 17-18)
R. Our blessing-cup is a communion with the Blood of Christ. (Cf. 1Cor 10:16)
How shall I make a return to the Lord for all the good he has done for me? The cup of salvation I will take up, and I will call upon the name of the Lord. (R)
Precious in the eyes of the Lord is the death of his faithful ones. I am your servant, the son of your handmaid; you have loosed my bonds. (R)
To you will I offer sacrifice of thanksgiving, and I will call upon the name of the Lord. My vows to the Lord I will pay in the presence of all his people. (R)
SECOND READING (For as oft en as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord.)
A reading from the first Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians (11:23-26)
Brothers and sisters: I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over, took bread, and, after he had given thanks, broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as oft en as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes. — The Word of the Lord.
R. Thanks be to God.
GOSPEL ACCLAMATION (Jn 13:34)
R. Glory and praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.
I give you a new commandment, says the Lord: love one another as I have loved you. (R)
GOSPEL (Jesus loved them to the end.)
A reading from the holy Gospel according to John (13:1-15)
Before the feast of Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to pass from this world to the Father. He loved his own in the world and he loved them to the end.
The devil had already induced Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot, to hand Jesus over. So, during supper, fully aware that the Father had put everything into his power and that he had come from God and was returning to God, Jesus rose from supper and took off his outer garments. He took a towel and tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and dry them with the towel around his waist.
Jesus came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Master, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus answered and said to Peter, “What I am doing, you do not understand now, but you will understand later.” Peter said to Jesus, “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered Peter, “Unless I wash you, you will have no inheritance with me.” Simon Peter said to Jesus, “Master, then not only my feet, but my hands and head as well.” Jesus said to Peter, “Whoever has bathed has no need except to have his feet washed, for he is clean all over; so you are clean, but not all.” For Jesus knew who would betray him; for this reason, he said, “Not all of you are clean.”
So when Jesus had washed their feet and put his garments back on and reclined at table again, he said to them, “Do you realize what I have done for you? You call me ‘teacher’ and ‘master,’ and rightly so, for indeed I am. If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.” —The Gospel of the Lord.
R. Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.
Our sacred TRIDUUM, the three most holy liturgical days of our year, begins with this evening’s Mass of the Lord’s Supper. On this day, however, two different realities of the Church are celebrated: the institution of the Eucharist and the establishment of ordained ministry. Throughout the world, the celebration of the Chrism Mass, has taken place where priests are gathered around their bishop for the blessing of the blessed oils [Sacred Chrism, Oil of the Sick, and Oil of the Catechumenate]. And although we in Hong Kong are still separated from the physical presence with our bishop standing around the cathedral altar, we were able to at least do this virtually.
At this evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper, we begin with the celebration of the gift of the Most Holy Eucharist, given through the ministerial priesthood that Christ instituted. In commemorating the Last Supper, an event that coincided with the Passover meal shared by Jesus with his Apostles, this celebration begins for us the gift that will bring us salvation.
On Holy Thursday, we hear the Lord say for the first time, “This is my body that is for you!” We hear him point to the gift of the Holy Eucharist as His gift to us, given for our holiness, nourishment and fulfillment. It is a gift we will never be able to fathom or comprehend. It is the gift of His complete self-giving and sacrificial. In these months shut away from our churches, we have been pushed to rediscover the mysticism of Saint Thomas Aquinas, Saint Theresa of Avila and other great saints and martyrs, including Blessed Titus Brandsma, O.Carm, who I mentioned frequently in my Lenten talks, holy men and women who gave us the gift of “spiritual communion,” a way of receiving this gift of the Most Holy Eucharist spiritually when prevented from receiving it physically.
It has been my fervent hope and prayer throughout this Lent that we – though separated physically – could appreciate more deeply and understand the Eucharist. The Eucharist is God Himself, present in our world, given to us to transform us into that which we consume. The Eucharist transforms us into Christ Himself! As we consume the Holy Eucharist, we are drawn into the divine life of the Most Blessed Trinity. We are made one with God and are given the food of eternity.
Traditionally, on Holy Thursday we are offered an example of the perfect humility and service that we are called to imitate as we become one with Him, seen in the ceremony of the washing of the feet that would normally follow the homily. Jesus washed the feet of His Apostles so as to teach them – and us – that his Body and Blood are given so as to enable us to love others just as he has loved us. The Eucharist transforms us into true servants, called to humility. And although for the last 3 years we have been unable to celebrate this ritual due to precautions and rigorous hygiene during the pandemic, the memory of this act reminds us that all of us – priests, religious, medical professionals, teachers, civil servants, workers, businessmen, housewives, rich and poor, young and old – all us are called to serve each other humbly.
Do you serve those around? Do you humble yourself before others to care for their most basic needs? Do you show them that you love them by your actions? Do you overcome hatred, dissent, vindictiveness, jealousy and family strife in order to imitate the gentle, merciful and compassionate HUMILTY of the Lord? Humble serve, to family, friends, neighbors and society is a beautiful gift and expression of our own intimate union with the Son of God.
Too often, true “greatness” is misunderstood. Greatness is often perceived with a worldly understanding of success and admiration. Too often we want others to admire our accomplishments. But Jesus offers us another view of greatness. On Holy Thursday, he shows us that true greatness is found in the humble act of service.
Again, turning to a key figure in our Lenten Retreat, Blessed Titus Brandsma spent his life as a Carmelite priest humbly serving others in imitation of Christ, and most especially during his long months of imprisonment and torture – always more concerned about those around him including his torturers and those who put him to death. Imitating Christ means that we have to surrender our pride, and this Blessed Titus did without wavering. He sought strength in the Eucharist – no matter whether he could receive a small consecrated morsal that was secretly passed to him, a morsal he would spend the night – depriving himself of need sleep – to lay prostrate on his bunk in adoration of the Lord before consuming the precious Eucharist. And when deprived of even this, he made a spiritual communion each and every day. Just as the Eucharist strengthened and nourished him, it enables us to love and serve other in this humble way. And that love and service is an act that will win hearts and souls of others for the Kingdom of God, just as his example did – even to the conversion of the nurse who gave him the lethal injection that took his life.
This evening as we celebrate this Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper, we are challenged to ponder our humility and to commit ourselves to a radical and total gift of self to others. Dear brothers and sisters, on this night are we able to imitate this humility of our Lord? Are we able to commit ourselves to seeking ways in which we can serve others, showing to them our love and care? Let this unique Holy Thursday transform us so that we can imitate the great love that Jesus offered on this glorious night.
“This is my body, that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me!”
Celebrant: On the night before his death, Jesus sat at table with his disciples. Gathered here to re-enact that sacred Supper, let us join Christ and pray to the Father for all our needs.
READER: For our Holy Father Francis, our Bishop Stephen and for all priests whose ordination was instituted at the Last Supper, that their consecrated lives of priestly service may continue to flow from the Eucharist which they offer in the person of Christ, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
READER: For those in positions of power and influence in the world, that they may understand something of the spirit of Christ’s sacrifice, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
READER: For all of us engaged in loving service to others, that our Lord’s example of humility and self-emptying symbolized in the foot washing, may continue to inspire our mutual reverence and devotion, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
READER: For the Elect of our community and the candidates for Confirmation during the upcoming Easter season, that they may draw more deeply into the mystery of Christ’s passion, death and resurrection in this Triduum, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
READER: For those confronted by temptation, that they may be strengthened by Christ’s example of loyalty to his Father, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
READER: For our faithful departed, who ate the Divine Bread and drank the Holy Cup and proclaimed the death of the Lord while on earth, that they may now share His victory over death in heaven. (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
CELEBRANT: Father, we come before you and present our needs to you, humbled by the eucharistic love and generosity of your Son, our eternal High Priest, who lives and reigns for ever and ever. (all) AMEN.