Mass of the Lord's Supper

Bishop Peter A Comensoli's Homily from Holy Thursday 

29 March 2018 General Interest

In recent years, many Aussies have gotten just a little excited in anticipation for the January release of the ‘lamb ad’. Sometimes it’s a hoot, other times a bit controversial, but the annual summer lamb ad certainly get the ‘water cooler’ conversations going each year. As you know, the lamb ad always tells a bit of a story, usually capturing some aspect of our history, while touching on some present-day topic in a laconic way. Why do we love to anticipate the lamb ad each year? Because it aims to capture something of who we are.

At the heart of the annual Passover, which Jesus celebrated on the evening before his death, is the story of a people, told through the preparing, cooking and eating of a lamb. The story that was told each year was the story of God’s passing over the captive Israelites, so as to set them free from slavery. As the Lord himself asked for the story to be remembered: Each household must take an animal from the flock, one for each family. It must be an animal without blemish, a male one year old. That night, the flesh is to be eaten, roasted over the fire; it must be eaten with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. You shall eat it with a girdle round your waist, sandals on your feet, a staff in your hand. You shall eat it hastily: it is a Passover in honour of the Lord.

These same words would have been re-told by Jesus at his last Passover, as a remembrance of the story of his people, God’s people. They were the words – and story – anticipated by those sharing the meal with him. The retelling of the story of their ancient delivery from slavery at God’s mighty hand, was for them a hope and anticipation of God’s ongoing delivery from the bonds of human failure and sin.

On this particular Passover night, as John tells us in his Gospel, Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to pass from this world to the Father. In other words, this Passover would take on its own particular meaning for Jesus. No longer would it be a mere commemoration of an ancient story. Tonight would be the transfiguring of the journey from slavery to freedom. How? As John put it: He had always loved those who were his in the world, but now he showed how perfect his love was.

The transfiguring that Jesus brought about on that Last Passover was the transfiguring of love. Originally it was a jealous God who saved his people; now it would be the sacrificial God who would be their saviour. Once, a mighty love was displayed; now a servant’s love was needed. Once, a lamb was offered as a sign to God, now God would offer himself as a sign to his people. Sometimes a story needs many re-tellings before its fullest meaning can be heard.

We are re-telling that story right now. To quote St Paul: “Until the Lord comes, therefore, every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are proclaiming his death.” Christ’s transfiguration of his last Passover has become for us the transubstantiation of our Eucharist. A symbolic lamb is no longer necessary. We have Jesus Christ himself, who offered himself, once and for all time, to be the only sacrifice necessary for our salvation. In his sacrifice on the cross, sacramentally present in this Eucharistic Passover, Christ captures the entire story of who we are – a people in need of saving; and he gives us the means of participating now in the ending to our story – a people saved in him.

He has always loved us, and will love us to the end.

Catholic Diocese of
Broken Bay

Building 2, 423 Pennant Hills Road
Pennant Hills NSW 2120

PO Box 340
Pennant Hills NSW 1715

Phone 02 9847 0000
Fax 02 9847 0001

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