Cycle C. Holy Thursday
Ex 12:1-8, 11-14; I Cor 11:23-26; John 13:1-15
Many people desired to leave behind them a concrete symbol for the posterity to remember them. The Pharaohs of Egypt had thus built the great pyramids of Egypt. It stands high, embraced by the heavenly clouds, still bearing witness to the memories of Pharaohnic rule. Former President of the Philippines, Ferdinand Marcos, figured his great face on a mountain between the cities of Pujo and Baguio. But on 30 December, 2002 the visage was blown to pieces.
Jesus left behind him not a perishable monument, but his very real presence in the institution of the Eucharist. The Eucharist is the symbol of life giving bread. “I am the bread of life…unless you will eat the flesh of the son of man you will have no life in you (Jn 6). Interestingly, Jesus was born in Bethlehem, and the Hebrew name “Bethlehem” means “House of Bread”.
Eucharist was instituted on the Day of Passover. Passover for the Jews was one of the greatest feasts. It recalled the major events in the history of salvation. To remember the great deeds of God in delivering His people from Bondage, God commanded them to keep this feast observing all the details as it was done in Egypt, when the Angel of God came down and smote all the first born of the homes which were not smeared with the blood of the lamb. After narrating the events, they ate the unleavened bread together with the roasted lamb.
Lamb was an important symbol in the expiation of sins. In Leviticus we read the account of transferring the sin of the society onto the lamb. “The High Priest is to lay both hands on the head of the live goat and confess over it all the wickedness and rebellion of the Israelites – all their sins – and put them on the goat’s head. He shall send the goat away into the desert in the care of a man appointed for the task. The goat will carry on itself all their sins to a solitary place (Lev.16:21-22).” The goat bore their sins and disappeared into the desert. This gave the Israelites a visual image to “see” God forgiving their sins. Before the scapegoat was sent out, the high priest had sacrificed a goat and made atonement as a sin offering for the nation of Israel. The law prescribed, “He shall then slaughter the goat for the sin offering for the people and take its blood behind the curtain and do with it as he did with the bull’s blood; He shall sprinkle it on the atonement cover and in front of it. (Lev 16:15). The reconciliation with God has been accomplished for the year.
When John the Baptist was preaching repentance he saw Jesus and he proclaimed “Behold the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” When Jesus was pointed out as the Lamb of God, John Knew well the role of the lamb in the Jewish tradition. When Abraham was asked to sacrifice his son, Isaac, he willingly obeyed God’s command. But, as Abraham raised hands to slay him God called him. “Abraham, do not lay your hands on the child. Abraham looked up and saw a ram. He sacrificed it to God. A male lamb is offered daily at the morning and evening sacrifice on the Sabbath day, at the feast of the New Moon, of Trumpets, of Tabernacles, of Pentecost, of Passover and on many other occasions.
Jesus the Lamb of God offered himself to God at the last supper. Eucharist stands as a perfect offering. Jesus changed the bread into his Body and wine into his Blood. He gave authority to his disciples to reenact this sacrifice. When he entrusted them with this power he knew they were weak. He knew that Peter would deny Him. He knew they would all hide for fear of the Jews. Still he has given them the privilege and entrusted them with the power to reenact the sacrifice.
There are Cherubim and Seraphim waiting at his feet. Bu he has not given this power to any of the Angels. By commanding them to reenact this sacrifice in his memory Jesus has instituted the sacrament of Holy Orders, and set them above the Angels. Even Mother Mary had the opportunity to bring Jesus into the world only once. But he comes down through the hands of the priest at every Eucharistic celebration.
Then Jesus reminded them that this authority is for service. He demonstrated it by washing the feet of his disciples. And Jesus gave them the new commandment. “Love one another as I have loved you.”
Every Christian who partakes in the body and blood of Jesus should turn into the Lamb of God. He should be able to bear witness to the new commandment of love. He should be able to reenact the sacrifice of Jesus. Then as John declared seeing Jesus, “Behold, the lamb of God” our brothers should be able to point at us and say, “Behold the lamb of God.” For that the love taught by Jesus, the sympathy reflected in the face of Jesus, the consolation found in the words of Jesus, the forgiveness offered by Jesus, the Kindness shown by Jesus and the understanding radiated through the actions of Jesus should be experienced through us. May Jesus give us the strength and grace for this especially during the great Triduum.