Fr Vincent's reflections on Holy Thursday 2021
We begin the Sacred Triduum, commemorating the Last Supper when Jesus created his Church and gave us the gift of His Body and Blood in the Eucharist. We read St. John’s Gospel that tells the story of Jesus’ humble act of washing the feet of his apostles. How do we handle his command to do for each other what he has done for us?
Watch the video: Fr Vincent's reflections on Holy Thursday 2021
Read the script:
Holy Thursday 2021 (April 1, 2021)
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. R/. Amen.
The Grace and Peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. R/. And with your spirit.
On this Holy Thursday, 2021, let us pray:
O God, who have called us to participate
in this most sacred Supper,
in which your Only Begotten Son,
when about to hand himself over to death,
entrusted to the Church a sacrifice new for all eternity,
the banquet of his love,
grant, we pray,
that we may draw from so great a mystery,
the fullness of charity and of life.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God, for ever and ever. R/. Amen.
Please pause this video and retrieve your Bible so you can follow along.
The Gospel today is John 13:1-15.
A reading from the holy Gospel according to John
Before the feast of Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come
to pass from this world to the Father.
He loved his own in the world and he loved them to the end.
The devil had already induced Judas,
son of Simon the Iscariot, to hand him over.
So, during supper,
fully aware that the Father had put everything into his power
and that he had come from God and was returning to God,
he rose from supper and took off his outer garments.
He took a towel and tied it around his waist.
Then he poured water into a basin
and began to wash the disciples’ feet
and dry them with the towel around his waist.
He came to Simon Peter, who said to him,
“Master, are you going to wash my feet?”
Jesus answered and said to him,
“What I am doing, you do not understand now,
but you will understand later.”
Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.”
Jesus answered him,
“Unless I wash you, you will have no inheritance with me.”
Simon Peter said to him,
“Master, then not only my feet, but my hands and head as well.”
Jesus said to him,
“Whoever has bathed has no need except to have his feet washed,
for he is clean all over;
so you are clean, but not all.”
For he knew who would betray him;
for this reason, he said, “Not all of you are clean.”
So when he had washed their feet
and put his garments back on and reclined at table again,
he said to them, “Do you realize what I have done for you?
You call me ‘teacher’ and ‘master,’ and rightly so, for indeed I am.
If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet,
you ought to wash one another’s feet.
I have given you a model to follow,
so that as I have done for you, you should also do.”
The Gospel of the Lord. R/. Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.
On Holy Thursday, we commemorate the Last Supper when Jesus gave to humanity the greatest gift imaginable, (short of the actual salvation of our souls) – His Body and Blood made present through the divine consecration of bread and wine! The Last Supper is considered the First Eucharist. So we gather in spiritual union with Jesus and the apostles in the upper room to partake as they did in the very Body and Blood of Jesus. Jesus fulfills his promise to remain with his people forever!
Yet Holy Thursday is also when Jesus transformed his followers into his Church, also his “Body,” made up of diverse people who, by the life and love of Jesus, join themselves into a community to continue his presence in this world. Notice that Jesus, creating the Church, ties its existence to the gift of his Body and Blood through the Eucharist. He feeds us so he can transform us. We cannot be “Church” without being fed by the life of Christ!
Please realize that we are fed not to remain individuals in relationship only with God; we must be in relationship with each other to be the Church-Body of Christ. This is why St. John, in his Gospel, does not retell the supper itself where Jesus gives us his Body and Blood. The Church had been repeating that action of Jesus from the very beginning. St. Paul writes about it in his first letter to the Corinthians, our Second Reading today, which is older than the Gospels of Mark, Luke, and Matthew. Those three Gospels have the meal story of the Last Supper.
When John writes his Gospel more than 50 years after the Last Supper, believers know it is the Body and Blood of Jesus which they are consuming. So John writes about an equally significant action of Jesus: washing the feet of the apostles before the meal. John wants everyone to remember that Jesus came to serve rather than be served, and that Jesus gave his Church an example which he expects us to follow. The words of Jesus in the Gospel are very explicit: “If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.”
By the time John wrote his Gospel, though believers knew they were fed by the Body and Blood of Jesus, they had already begun to lose the character of unity and service to each other. The weakness and selfishness of human nature had begun to take over again. John wanted his readers to remember Jesus’ command, not only to continue the Eucharist in memorial of him, but also to be servants to each other in memorial of Jesus.
Today, we need this same lesson, and this is what Holy Thursday gives us: Jesus feeds us with his Body and Blood so that we can be transformed by his love to be his presence in this world. We, the Church, are meant to be the presence of Jesus through service to others so that we form one Body, one Church, with Jesus as our head. The Church is born from the Eucharist; we are sustained by the Eucharist; and in the grace of the Eucharist, we are to love all the people of the world as Jesus loves, willing to give our lives in service, just as Jesus serves us.
There is no final blessing for the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, because we end in silent adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, which you are invited to do with the final image of this video. We will use the Communion Prayer of the Mass to inspire that moment of adoration.
Let us pray.
Grant, almighty God,
that, just as we are renewed
by the Supper of your Son in this present age,
so we may enjoy his banquet for all eternity.
Who lives and reigns for ever and ever. R/. Amen.