As often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes (1 Corinthians 11:26)
JESUS, KNOWING THAT HIS HOUR HAD COME … LOVED THEM TO THE END
Tonight we celebrate the institution of the Eucharist, that great feast of our salvation that recalls another great feast, the Passover, the liberation of the children of Israel from slavery in Egypt and their journey to freedom in the Promised Land.
The first letter to the Corinthians (11:23-26) recounts this great event in our Christian tradition:
The Lord Jesus on the night he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body that is broken for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, he took the cup also, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
On this night we recall our own journey to freedom and our passage to new life. And we can learn from other peoples who have made this journey, such as this testimony from a refugee who fled El Salvador during its civil war, only to return to celebrate Holy Thursday night with the gratitude of one who has known great suffering and great joy:
Just as the people of Israel recalled their liberation from slavery in Egypt, in the paschal supper we, too, recall our own history, how we lived under oppression, how we organized to struggle against injustice, how we had to flee to the hills to take refuge, and how we prepared ourselves there, learning many things so that when we returned one day we could help rebuild our country.
What is our experience of Passover? How have we passed from slavery to freedom in this Lenten journey? How have we experienced the liberation that comes from our identification with Christ suffering in the “crucified peoples” of the planet, in those whom we encounter along the way, in those who are entrusted to our care each day?
How do we experience this liberation in the Eucharist that we share tonight? The Gospel shares with us the true meaning of this sacrament, the example of unconditional love and service: “So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example that you also should do as I have done to you” (John 13:14-15).
As often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.