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Holy Thursday – Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper

My dear encountered couple:

In our reading from the letter of Paul to the Corinthians we are told of what Jesus did at the Last Supper. He took bread and wine and changed it into his Body and Blood. “This is my body, which is for you ...This cup is the new covenant in my blood.” We expect a reading like this tonight because we are commemorating the institution of the Mass. Holy Thursday is the anniversary of the first Mass. But why the gospel?

Why does the Church pick the gospel passage of St. John that tells about Jesus at the Last Supper taking a towel and a basin of water, then stooping down to wash the feet of his apostles? Because the Mass and service to others are virtually linked. There cannot be one without the other. Jesus wanted us to know that.

“There is no greater love than this,” Jesus had told his apostles, “than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” The Mass is Jesus laying down his life for us on Calvary; the washing of the feet at the Last Supper is an example of how we are to lay down our lives for one another. We need not die physically to show our love for others, but we need to exert ourselves by living and doing for them physically, mentally, or however. “What I have just done, so you must do,” said Jesus when he finished washing the feet of his friends.

Every Mass is to remind us of what Jesus did for us and what we are to do for others. Jesus gave his life for us by dying, we are to give our lives to one another by living. It need not be an act as notable as running onto a battlefield with bombs bursting all around us to carry off a wounded soldier, it need not be as admirable as tackling an armed robber at a convenient store to save everybody else there.

We give our lives for others by doing our everyday routines — at home, at our places of employment, wherever we find ourselves.

Husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, children, all who live and work together, just by showing consideration and doing their parts to make life more bearable and pleasant for one another are doing what Jesus did at the Last Supper. They are washing one another’s feet, they are offering their own personal Mass.

By a word, a smile, a phone call, a note, we can do for others. It need not take a lot of time, only a few minutes is all that is sometimes needed. An elderly woman accidentally knocked over a display of graham crackers with her grocery cart at a supermarket. How embarrassing! The aisles can be like obstacle courses. A young man alleviated her embarrassment by immediately rushing over, stooping down and picking up the boxes, and setting them all back up again. Only a couple of minutes is all it took.

A little boy couldn’t reach what he wanted on an upper shelf. “Let me get that for you,” came a kind voice from behind. It only took a few seconds for that Mass to be completed.

Seventy-two-year-old Fr. Giuseppe Berardelli, was a popular priest in Italy. He was so beloved of his parishioners that when he caught Corona Virus some of them managed to club together and somehow buy a ventilator for him. But he knew what he had to do. There were not enough so he gave up the ventilator so a younger person could have. Not someone he knew. Just a random young person in a hospital. That person lived. Giuseppe died. With every giving and living and doing for others a Mass is offered.

“Jesus poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet. Then he asked, ‘Do you understand what I just did for you? What I just did was to give you an example. . .This is my Body which will be given up for you. . .This is the cup of my blood which will be shed for you. As I have done, so you must do.’”

Jesus offered his Mass. Now we are to offer ours.

During the Global Pandemic, O Lord, may your words be on our lips, and in our hearts. May they give us courage and hope – and draw us nearer to you.

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