March 20, 2008
Holy Thursday , Cycle A

First Reading:
Ex. 12:1-8, 11-14
Psalm 116 1
Second Reading: Cor. 11:23-26
Gospel: Jn. 13:1-15

Right now, we have begun the Triduum: Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday [including Holy Saturday – Easter Vigil]. Historically, there is a reason to wash one’s feet. In Palestine of Jesus Christ, walking on foot was the popular means of transportation. As happens even now in certain parts of the world – developing countries in particular, people of ancient Palestine walked long distances on rough, dusty roads to go from one place to another. Unlike cars, travellers on foot often arrived late to their destinations, and worse still, with sore and aching feet and body. Therefore, as a gesture of hospitality, the host often gave visitors warm foot bath and massage to relieve them of their aches and pains and so give them comfort. Most certainly, no other person than the house slave or servant was asked to perform this “dirty” task. The rest stops bought into this concept and soon we find them in strategic locations along our roads, municipalities and cities. When we are tired from travelling, we rest in there for shower or to ease ourselves and to restore our exhausted energy from heat and perspiration etc.

In a special way, Holy Thursday liturgies include specific features of the “Washing of the Feet and the Transfer of the Holy Eucharist, each of which brings out an important aspect of the Mass or the Eucharist as the “source and summit of our Christian life” (Lumen Gentium #11)

At every Eucharist on Holy Thursday, the Church also gives thanks to Jesus for giving us the Eucharist and the Priesthood (Holy Orders). The late, Pope John Paul II wrote that “the priesthood originated during the Last Supper; “At the Last Supper we were born as priests…” (§1); and in finding a connection between priesthood and the Eucharist, he said that, “We were born from the Eucharist. If we can truly say that the whole Church lives from the Eucharist…then, we can say the same thing about the ministerial priesthood, which is born, lives, and works and bears fruit “de Eucharistia.” There can be no Eucharist without the priesthood, just as there can be no priesthood without the Eucharist” (Letter to Priests for Holy Thursday §2).

On every Holy Thursday, Jesus brings us to experience the power of his hands [touch] and feet, water, bread and wine, which constitute his touching and remembering each one of us at the Eucharistic meal. Jesus fulfills our salvation and in quite a unique way becomes our food, our drink, our nourishment. The pre-requisite to the Eucharistic meal is self-sacrifice or loving sincerely.

Thus, when we come to the Eucharist, Jesus expects to see in us the desire to serve, for “he the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mk 10:45). From this day onwards, Jesus’ action reminds us of the greatest gift for our friends is love [cf. Jn. 15:13] as “he has loved us as his own till the end of time” (Jn. 13:1).

The Pope wrote: “The ordained ministry…enables the priest to act in persona Christi and culminates in the moment when he consecrates the bread and wine, repeating the actions and words of Jesus during the Last Supper.” (Letter for Priest on Holy Thursday §2). He explained that, “Before this extraordinary reality we find ourselves amazed and overwhelmed, so deep is the humility by which God “stoops” down to our human level in order to unite himself with us in our human weakness! If we feel moved before the Christmas crib, when we contemplate the Incarnation of the Word, he asks, what must we feel before the altar where, by the poor hands of the priest, Christ makes his Sacrifice present in time? He admits, we can but only fall to our knees and silently adore this supreme mystery of faith. (Letter to Priest for Holy Thursday §2).

I acknowledge my personal imperfections. I may not be the best to remember your names, or I may not be the greatest organizer or eloquent priest, but I want to sell you the best material good you would ALWAYS need in your life. He is Jesus Christ, the crucified one, who is truly and always present in the Eucharist I share with you!

Father John-Baptist Okai
Priest Moderator
St. Cecilia Parish, Regina SK Canada

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