The readings for the Mass of the Lord’s Supper celebrated in the evening on Holy Thursday are very appropriate to the occasion.
The first reading (Exodus 12:1-8, 11-14) recalls the original Passover event when God lead the Israelites out of Egypt by the hand of Moses. It was the Passover meal that Jesus celebrated at the Last Supper. This is no coincidence. The Passover was the central event in the history of the Israelite people, celebrated each year to remember what God did for them as a people. God set them free from the Egyptians. At the Last Supper, Jesus institutes the Eucharist intimately linked to his sacrifice on the Cross when he sets us free from our sins.
The second reading (1 Corintians 11:23-26) is Paul’s telling of how the Eucharist is celebrated in the early church. At the Last Supper Jesus celebrated the first Eucharist. He commanded his disciples to “Do this is memory of me” and we have celebrated the Eucharist ever since. Our celebration of the Eucharist is fundamental to what it means to be Catholic.
The gospel reading (John 13:1-15) is the story of the washing of the feet. Jesus is the Messiah yet he is the one washing the feet of his disciples. He does so to show us what it means to be a “king.” Kingship in God’s eye is not a question of power or wealth. Jesus says he comes not to be served but to serve. In the washing of the feet, Jesus calls us to serve the needs of others.
The washing of the feet can be a very humbling experience for both the person having their foot washed and the priest doing it. It can be humbling for the person having their foot washed because we like to do things for ourselves. We don’t like to depend on other people. To accept the help of others requires humility. To be the one washing the feet can be a humbling remind that one is not better than other people. We are not to consider ourselves “above” such menial tasks. How is your humility?
Remember, Holy Thursday is not a day by itself. It has an importance of its own but it is intimately linked to the events of Good Friday and Easter.