My brothers and sisters in Christ, we gather here in the Basilica this evening to begin the celebration of the Sacred Triduum. Our observance of Lent now ends. That period of prayer and sacrifice that enables us to again recognize the need for conversion in our lives and that leads us to reform our lives so as to conform more closely to that of our Savior has concluded.
We begin these most sacred days with the Mass of the Lord’s Supper. We celebrate the fulfillment of the Old Testament covenant that we hear of in our first reading this evening from the Book of Exodus. Almighty God commands the Israelites to establish a ritual meal that they are to eat “like those who are in flight.” It was also to be a memorial feast which all generations were to celebrate. It was to be memorial of their freedom from oppression and death at the hands of the Egyptians.
Tonight, we celebrate Jesus as the New Passover, a Passover that is not rooted in the Law but, rather, in the Divine Love that is Jesus, Himself. He then becomes the Sacrificial Lamb of the New Covenant, the Covenant that frees all people, for all time, from the oppression of sin and the finality death. So, my brothers and sisters, it is with humble gratitude and great jubilation that we join together this evening to celebrate the irreplaceable gift of the Eucharist. This new Memorial Feast is, as St. Paul reminds us in the second reading, to be celebrated until the new Sacrificial Lamb, the Christ, comes again.
Our Divine Savior is present to us in a variety of ways. He is present in the Word of God, the Sacred Scriptures. He is present among us when we are assembled at prayer. He is present to the sick, to the poor, and to those who are oppressed by injustice. However, the presence of Jesus in the sacramental mystery of the Eucharist is very special. Jesus in the Eucharist is the personification of Divine Love, whole and entire. As such, in the Mass and at Adoration, we can encounter him unfettered by any obstacles of the human condition and sin. We can focus upon Him, almost mystically, as the One who died to destroy death; the One who rose to restore life, and the One who will come in glory.
St. John’s account of the Last Supper dramatically draws our attention to that very critical link between the Eucharist as the Real Presence of Jesus as Divine Love AND His mandate to service: “I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do”. By showing us what to do, and, at the same time, by giving Himself to us as sacrament, Jesus inextricably links the Eucharist to our service … AND, thus, transforms that service, through grace from a merely human venture to a Divine one that we know to be the virtue of Charity.
Our service then is an act that becomes holy and faith-filled because it is rooted in the Paschal Mystery of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus; the mystery we celebrate each time we celebrate the Eucharist. Without it, we would be hard pressed to muster the kind of forgiving love and charity necessary to follow the mandate of the Savior.
My brothers and sisters in Christ, Holy Thursday is the Day of the Eucharist. We gather as a priestly people celebrating as those having received the grace of Baptism and Confirmation and nourished by the Eucharist, the grace of which enables us to live lives of Faith, Hope, and Charity. Joining with those ordained to the ministerial priesthood, all of us gather this night as the Priesthood of Jesus Christ to do what He commanded us to do at His Last Supper until He comes again!
During these most holy three days, let us immerse ourselves in the Paschal Mystery, not only as a commemoration of history, but as the ongoing, living mystery that calls us together as Church in service to the world. Let us give thanks for the irreplaceable gift of the Eucharist in which we encounter the grace of the Paschal Mystery each time we celebrate it.
May the grace and light of Christ be with each of you during this Easter Season.
Fr. David Tyson, C.S.C., is the Provincial Superior of the United States Province of Priest and Brothers. He shared with us this Holy Thursday homily, which he preached at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, as part of our Holy Week series of homilies on the Spes Unica Blog. Read other homilies and reflections by Fr. Tyson as well as other Holy Cross priests and brothers.