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Holy Thursday Homily

Holy Thursday 2013
Exodus 12:1-8, 11-14
1 Corinthians 11:23-26
John 13:1-15
March 28, 2013

Tonight is a night like no other night but neither is a night that stands all by itself.

It was the night of the Passover.  The Passover is the greatest of the Israelite feasts that they celebrated as a perpetual institution at God’s command.

It was a memorial feast to celebrate a great moment, the Exodus, when the Israelites were set free from the Egyptians.  It was celebrated with the sacrifice of a lamb and unleavened bread.

Jesus would have grown up celebrated the Passover every year with Mary and Joseph.  And it is no small coincidence that God chose the night of the Passover for what happens tonight.

We call it the Last Supper.  One of our school children asked me this week shouldn’t it be the “First Supper” because it is the first time the Eucharist is celebrated.  The Eucharist is a meal of spiritual food so the child had something there, they understood the significance of the Eucharist.

We call it the Last Supper, of course, because it is the last earthly supper that Jesus shared with his disciples.

But Jesus didn’t just celebrate the Passover with his disciples and call it good.  He took the Passover and made it something even better.

It is at this meal where Jesus says ‘this is my body’ and ‘this is my blood.’  He doesn’t say “pretend” this is my body and blood.  He says it is.

We’ve got a big word for it, transubstantiation, changing of the substance.  It still looks like bread.  It still looks like wine but in a way we cannot understand God takes it and transforms it into the Body and Blood of Christ.

It is His Body and Blood that is given up for us.  When it is given up?  The answer to that goes back to what I said about this not being a night all by itself.  I already spoke of how it ties back to the Passover that had been celebrated for centuries.

We also need to look forward from this night to understand the Eucharist.  Tomorrow we celebrate the Crucifixion where Jesus gives up His Body and Blood but Jesus unites that sacrifice with the Eucharist.

So as Paul says “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes.”  Every time we celebrate the Eucharist we remember how Jesus gave up His Body and Blood for us.  It is not a new sacrifice we celebrate but making Jesus the sacrifice at Calvary.

But as if that wasn’t enough, that wasn’t all that Jesus did that night.  For us to eat the Body of Christ and to drink the cup is to want to become like Jesus.

To become like Jesus is to serve the needs of others.  Knowing the need to teach this, Jesus did something that would not be expected from a Messiah.  As Messiah, he had every right to expect people to wait on him but he didn’t.  At the Last Supper, he took on the role of servant and washed the feet of his disciples.  At first, Peter refused but Jesus told him it must be so.

In washing the feet of his disciples, Jesus shows humility to others.  We need to do the same.

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