Summary: A reflection of the sacred paschal meal and the significance of ordained ministry
During the next three days, the most sacred seventy- two hours the liturgical calendar, the church will celebrate the feast and source of our salvation, namely the paschal death and resurrection of our blessed Liberator, Jesus of Nazareth.
Tonight we initiate this celebration by commemorating the institution of the Lord’s Supper, and the church has appropriately selected readings that describe sacred meals. The first reading tonight reminds us that we Christians have our spiritual ancestry in the chosen people of Israel, in that first reading; we heard a description of the Jewish Passover meal, the meal that commemorated and celebrated the most important event in the history of Israel, her exodus from the land of Egypt. It was in the exodus event that the Jews came to know Yahweh as their personal Savior We must never forget that Jesus was born a Jew; he lived, preaches and died on Jewish soil. As a pious Jew, the only Passover meal he would have ever celebrated would have been the one described in today’s’ first reading.
Likewise the Last Supper described in the second reading would have been a meal celebrated in the context of Jewish law and ritual. However at that particular meal, the savior gave new meaning to the Passover meal he had celebrated since his youth. Jesus knew well that that while he was eating this meal, others were planning his death and he realized that his death on the following day would replace the exodus event as the central act of god’s love for his people. At his Last Supper, Jesus instituted a new Pascal meal that would perfect and fulfill this sacred meal of the old covenant. And he gave this meal to us as an eternal sign of his love and as a source of his saving grace and presence.
At this very moment, as Jews throughout the world are sitting down with their families to celebrate their Passover. We have gathered as a parish family to celebrate our paschal meal. While they recall their deliverance from the land of Egypt, we celebrate our deliverance from the power of death. While they give thanks for their liberation from the human bondage, we make Eucharist for our redemption from the yoke of sin. While they eat the Passover lamb and pray for the coming of the messiah, we eat the body and drink the blood of the Lamb of God and give thanks for the redemption he has already accomplished. Yes my friends our Passover meal, has infinitely more spiritual significance than the Hebrew Passover. For we have not only a memorial of our redemption, not a mere sign of our redeemer but in these elements of bread and wine, we have the real and personal presence of the Savor of the world who gives himself to us as Pascal food and drink.
We must not judge these elements by taste, touch or sight for what appears to be food is by no means ordinary bread and what appears to be wine is not common drink but rather the flesh and blood of the living Christ who is our Savior Judge these elements by faith and know that the God who created the universe, the God who led his people out of Egypt and the God who raised his Christ from the dead will make this bread and wine the place where Christ fulfilled his promise to be among those who gather in his name.
In light of all that this meal contains, we must be careful to treat it with the reverence and respect that its sanctity demands. We must never look upon it, as a social gathering bur we must appreciate it for what it is the place where we mortal creatures meet the eternal God. We must never come to this table out of a sense of obligation but from a humble awareness of our desperate need for its sanctifying nourishment. We must partake of this bread often but always worthily for while it is indeed the bread of life; the scriptures remind us that it becomes the bread of condemnation for those who receive it in an unworthy or disrespectful fashion.
On this holy day when we celebrate the institution of the Most Holy Eucharist we also celebrate the establishment of the Christian priesthood. The past few decades have been very difficult for our sacred fraternity, a small percentage of my clerical brothers have committed the grave sin of exploiting or scandalizing the very flocks they were ordained to serve. Clerical misconduct has existed since the betrayal of Judas and the denial of peter but the church of Jesus Christ remains holy despite the sins or crimes of some of her ministers
I know I speak for all my clerical brothers when I say that because we share the dignity of the clerical state we also share the shame when one of our impaired brothers harms a member of the flock. If anyone in this congregation has been offended scandalized or harmed by the deliberate malicious act of one of my clerical brothers than on behalf of our entire sacred fraternity, I apologize and seek your forgiveness