Love One another As I have Loved You
First Reading: Exodus 12. 1 – 8, 11 – 14.
Responsorial Psalm 116.
Second Reading 1 Corinthians 11: 23 – 26.
Gospel: John 1. 1 – 15.
On Holy Thursday we celebrate three anniversaries. The anniversary of the first Holy Mass. The
anniversary of the institution of ministerial priesthood in order to perpetuate the Holy Mass, convey
God’s forgiveness to repentant sinners and preach the Good News of Salvation, and the anniversary of
Jesus’ promulgation of His new commandment of love: “Love one another as I have loved you.” Today
we remember how Jesus transformed the Jewish Passover into the New Testament Passover. The Jewish
Passover was, in fact, a joint celebration of two ancient thanksgiving celebrations. The descendants of
Abel, who were shepherds, used to lead their sheep from the winter pastures to the summer pastures
after the sacrificial offering of a lamb to God. They called this celebration the “Pass over.” The farming
descendants of Cain, however, held a harvest festival called the Massoth in which they offered
unleavened bread to God as an act of thanksgiving. The Passover feast of the Israelites (Exodus 12:26-
37), was a harmonious combination of these two ancient feasts of thanksgiving, commanded by the
Lord God and celebrated yearly by all Israelites to thank God for the miraculous liberation of their
ancestors from Egyptian slavery, their exodus from Egypt, and their final arrival in the Promised Land.
In the first reading, God gives the Hebrews two instructions: prepare for the moment of liberation by a
ritual meal and make a symbolic mark on your homes to exempt the families within each from the
coming slaughter. In the second reading, Paul suggests that the celebration of the Lord’s Supper was an
unbroken tradition from the very beginning of the Church. By it, Christians gratefully remembered the
death and Resurrection of Jesus. Today’s Gospel describes how Jesus transformed the Jewish Passover
into the Eucharistic celebration. After washing the feet of his Apostles and commanding them to do
humble service for each other, Jesus, in addition to serving the roasted Paschal lamb, concluded the
ceremony by giving his Apostles his own body and blood under the appearances of bread and wine as
spiritual food and drink.
A challenge for humble service. Our celebration of the Eucharist requires that we wash one another’s
feet, i.e., serve one another, and revere Christ’s presence in other persons. In practical terms, that means
we are to consider their needs to be as important as our own and to serve their needs, without expecting
any reward. A loving invitation for sacrificial sharing and self-giving love. Let us imitate the model of
self-giving love which Jesus offers us when He shares with us his own body and blood for our spiritual
nourishment and enriches us with his Real Presence in the Holy Eucharist. It is by sharing our blessings
– our talents, time, health and wealth – with others that we become true disciples of Christ and obey
Jesus’ new commandment: “Love one another as I have loved you.” An invitation to become Christ-
bearers and Christ-conveyers: “Go forth, the Mass is ended,” really means, “Go in peace to love and
serve one another.’’ We are to carry Jesus to our homes and places of work, conveying to others around
us the love, mercy, forgiveness and spirit of humble service of Christ whom we carry with us.
The Jewish Passover was an eight-day celebration during which unleavened bread was eaten. The
Passover meal began with the singing of the first part of the “Hallel” Psalms (Ps 113 &114), followed
by the first cup of wine. Then those gathered at table ate bitter herbs, sang the second part of the
“Hallel” Psalms (Ps 115-116), drank the second cup of wine and listened as the oldest man in the family
explained the significance of the event in answer to the question raised by a child. This was followed by
the eating of a lamb (whose blood had previously been offered to God in sacrifice), roasted in fire. The
participants divided and ate the roasted lamb and unleavened Massoth bread, drank the third cup of wine
and sang the major “Hallel” psalms (117-118). In later years, Jews celebrated a miniature form of the
Passover every Sabbath day and called it the “Love Feast.”
The first reading from Exodus, gives us an account of the origins of the Jewish feast of Passover when
the Israelites celebrated God’s breaking the chains of their Egyptian slavery and leading them to the land
He had given to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, establishing a covenant with them, and making of them His
own beloved people. God gave the Hebrews two instructions: prepare for the moment of liberation by a
ritual meal and make a symbolic mark on your homes to exempt yourselves from the coming slaughter.
This tradition continued in the Church as the Lord’s Supper, with the Eucharist as its focal point.
Today’s Responsorial Psalm (Ps 116) gives us our response to the Infinite Goodness of God
remembered on this evening. In the second reading, Paul identifies a source and purpose for the
communal celebration of the Lord’s Supper beyond that which was passed on to him upon his
conversion, namely that he had received this “from the Lord.” This suggests that the celebration of the
Lord’s Supper was an unbroken tradition from the very beginning of the Church. Paul implies that
another purpose of this celebration was to “proclaim the death of the Lord until He comes again.” Paul
may simply mean that Christians, by this ritual act, remind themselves of the death and Resurrection of
Jesus; he may also mean that Christians prepare themselves for the proclamation of Christ to the world
at large. Addressing abuses and misunderstandings concerning the “breaking of the bread” in the
Corinthian church, Paul gives us all the warning that if we fail to embrace the spirit of love and
servanthood in which the gift of the Eucharist is given to us, then “Eucharist” becomes a judgment
against us. In harmony with these readings, today’s Gospel describes how Jesus transformed the Jewish
Passover into the Eucharistic celebration. First, he washed His Apostles’ feet – a tender reminder of his
undying affection for them and the need for the brotherly love expected in his disciples. Then he
commanded them to do the same for each other. The incident reminds us that our vocation is to take
care of one another as Jesus always takes care of us. Finally, Jesus gave his apostles his own Body and
Blood under the appearances of bread and wine as Food and Drink for their souls, so that, as long as
they lived, they’d never be without the comfort and strength of his presence. Thus, Jesus washed their
feet, fed them and then went out to die. This Gospel episode challenges us to become for others Christ
the healer, Christ the compassionate and selfless brother, Christ the humble “washer of feet.” The
Eucharistic celebration or The Lord’s Supper gives us our daily sustenance as manna fed His people in
the desert. The Eucharist enables us to do humble and loving service to others, and unites us with Christ
and one another, as we realize Jesus’ Real Presence in our midst.
We need to practice sacrificial sharing and self-giving love. Let us imitate the self-giving model of
Jesus who shares with us his own Body and Blood and enriches us with his Real Presence in the Holy
Eucharist. It is by sharing our blessings – our talents, time, health and wealth – with others that we
become true disciples of Christ and obey his new commandment: “Love one another as I have loved
you” (Jn 13:34).
We need to show our unity in suffering. The bread we partake of is produced by the pounding of many
grains of wheat, and the wine is the result of the crushing of many grapes. Both are thus symbols of
unity through suffering. They invite us to help, console, support, and pray for others who suffer
physical or mental illnesses.
We need to heed the warning: We need to make Holy Communion an occasion of Divine grace and
blessing by receiving it worthily, rather than making it an occasion of desecration and sacrilege by
receiving Jesus while we are in grave sin. That is why we pray three times before we receive
Communion, “Lamb of God, You take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us,” with the final
“have mercy on us” replaced by “grant us peace.” That is also the reason we pray the Centurion’s
prayer, “Lord, I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul
shall be healed” (Mt 8:8). And that is why the priest, just before he receives the consecrated Host,
prays, “May the Body of Christ keep me safe for eternal life,” while, just before drinking from the
Chalice, he prays, “May the Blood of Christ keep me safe for eternal life.”
We need to become Christ-bearers and Christ-conveyers: In the older English version of the Mass, the
final message was, “Go in peace to love and serve one another,” that is, to carry Jesus to our homes and
places of work, conveying to others around us the love, mercy, forgiveness and spirit of humble service
of Christ whom we carry with us. That message has not changed, though the words are different.
A day to give and ask for forgiveness: The ceremony of the “Washing of the Feet” in today’s Holy
Mass is the time for us to recall the times we have hurt, or we were hurt by others. Now is the time to
give and receive forgiveness. Let us allow a few minutes of silence to remember the persons for whom
we have the least affection and see how we can reach out to each of them even as Jesus is prepared to
stoop down before each of us to wash our feet. Be Jesus to each of them by washing their feet by
offering humble service, and then by allowing your feet to be washed also by each of them.
Why is the other side empty? Have you ever noticed that in Leonardo da Vinci’s painting of the Last
Supper everybody is on one side of the table? The other side is empty. “Why’s that?” someone asked the
great artist. His answer was simple. “So that there may be plenty of room for us to join them.” Do you
want to let Jesus do his thing on earth through you? Then pull up a chair and receive him into your