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Diocese of Rockville Centre

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This night I speak to you as Paul wrote to the Church at Corinth: My friends, I have received from the Lord what I also handed on to you. On the night before he died, the Lord Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it and said: This is my Body for you…This cup is the new Covenant in my blood. Do this as often as you do it in remembrance of me.

This night we are faithful to what we have received and we rejoice in what has been given to us: His real sacramental body for us; His precious blood poured out for us! And what we do, he did first. We do this because he gave himself to us. We do this because he first has saved us. He saved us by dying on the cross. He is the true lamb foreseen in the Passover meal of the Jews. He is the lamb without blemish; the chosen One; the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

Soon – very soon – that lamb will be the lamb of sacrifice. For Jesus has already set his face like flint to go to his destiny, the destiny of the cross on the hill of Golgotha. For this did the Son of God become man in the womb of the Virgin Mary. For this did he do the will of the Father: willingly and freely becoming one like us in all but sin so that he might die like us to set us free.

While we can never gauge or grasp the suffering of body, mind, and heart that Jesus endured, we do know the reason why he goes to the cross: his unending and overwhelming love for us! What the Father desires, he desires. And so the cross becomes the ultimate and total act of love, the author of life dies so that we might live. The cross is the triumph of Effective Love, the love that changes our destiny, produces forgiveness, newness of life, and hope for life eternal.

This night, Jesus gathers with his closest friends, his beloved disciples. This night he shows them and us his Affective Love, an affection that embraces them all in the warmth of his heart. He opens that sacred heart of his to call them friends, to tell them of his love for the Father and the Father’s love for him. He speaks of his end which he accepts because he belongs to them and he wants them to be always with him. He promises them the Spirit by which he is in the Father and the Father in Him. He wants them to dwell in him and he to dwell always in their hearts and in their lives. And then come the two moments of affection and love that shaped the lives of these apostles and the lives of us all.

He took a towel and tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash their feet! We have just heard that story and soon we will imitate him because he told us, bishops and priests: Do you realize what I have done for you? If I have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet! Thus the leader in the Church must be as Jesus, the servant who serves the Church, ready to wash the feet, heal the wounds and embrace the hearts of one and all.

And then the moment in which he provides for his little flock and their life as Church. He gives them his Body to eat, his precious blood poured out for the salvation of the world. As often as you do this you do it in remembrance of me.

In these two moments Jesus institutes the Eucharist that will build up the Church and he institutes the priesthood by which the Eucharist will be celebrated in the Church for the Church. And he shows us priests how we are to fulfill our vocation as one of service to the people for the building up of His Body.

By these means Jesus has given the Church the greatest gift he could leave us: The Eucharist of His Body and Blood. By these actions Jesus has given us the source and summit of our lives as members of His Body. By his love usque ad finem, a love to the very end, a love fulfilled on the cross where he accomplishes the redemption of us all. At this Supper he has shown them how to live that redemptive love, imitating his affectionate love toward them at the supper that they share; the same supper that we share now and to the end of time.

The Eucharist makes the Church which is one, holy, catholic and apostolic. The Eucharist is the cause and gift of our oneness in Christ. It is holy as the very Body and Blood of the Savior. It is catholic because it is given for the whole Church to be a beacon to all the world. It is apostolic because it has been confided by Christ to the bishops and priests whose very lives are conformed to Christ and sent by Christ in order that they might act for the Church in Persona Christi, in the person of Christ, the High Priest of the Eucharist. With what love has he embraced us! With what love has he endowed us! With what love does he dwell among us!

This night let Blessed John Paul speak to us with these words: In the humble signs of bread and wine, changed into his body and blood, Christ walks beside us as our strength and our food for the journey, and he enables us to become, for everyone, witnesses of hope…In the presence of this mystery, the heart, enlightened by the Holy Spirit, sees the response that is demanded and bows low in adoration and unbounded love.