Today, with the celebration of the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, we begin the Easter or Sacred Triduum (Triduum Sacrum), that is, the three-part drama of Christ's redemption: Passion, Death (that begun on Holy Thursday, continued on Good Friday) and the Resurrection (on Holy Saturday Easter Vigil).
Holy Thursday is also known as “Maundy Thursday”.The word “Maundy” comes from the Latin word mandatum (commandment), which is the first word of the Gospel acclamation according to St. John: “Mandátum novum do vobis dicit Dóminus, ut diligátis ínvicem, sicut diléxi vos”. (I give you a new commandment: Love one another as I have loved you. -- John 13:34). “Maundy Thursday”, therefore, is the true day of love (not February 14) because today, our Lord reminds us to love one another regardless of race, gender, political opinion or religion.
Today also, we recall the last actions of Jesus before He was arrested, condemned, crucified and died on the cross. These actions can be summarized as follows: (1) the eating of the Jewish paschal meal that commemorates the Passover; (2) the washing of the disciple’s feet; (3) the institution of the Most Holy Eucharist (the first Mass at which Jesus Christ, the eternal high priest, is the presider; the first Communion of the apostles; the conferring of Holy Orders); (4) the foretelling of Judas’ betrayal and Peter’s denials; (5) the farewell discourse and priestly prayer of Jesus; and lastly, (6) the agony of Jesus in the Garden of Olives. All these events become sacramentally present in this Eucharistic celebration of Holy Thursday, the Mass of the Lord’s Supper.
But I wish only to highlight one very important action of Jesus during that Last Supper: the institution of the Holy Eucharist. It is a very important action because the Holy Eucharist is “the source and summit of the Christian life” (CCC, 1324).
By “source”, we mean that all the strength we need, whether spiritual or bodily, in order to face our daily struggles, our joys and hopes, our grief and anxieties, come from our Lord Jesus who is sacramentally and really present in the Holy Eucharist, in His Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity.
By “summit”, we mean that the Holy Eucharist is “the culmination both of God’s action sanctifying the world in Christ and of the worship men offer to Christ and through him to the Father in the Holy Spirit” (CCC, 1325). Whenever we participate in the Mass, “we already unite ourselves with the heavenly liturgy and anticipate eternal life” (CCC, 1326). We have a foretaste of heaven! Hence, we can imagine ourselves to be in heaven right now.
But to be in heaven is not automatic – that you just attend Mass and puff! – you’re in heaven! Heaven is where Jesus is present. In the Eucharist, Jesus is present. But the Eucharist must not be confined only in the church building. The Holy Eucharist, the presence of Jesus, must continue to subsist in the hearts of each of us, in our lives, in our family, in our work, in our entertainment.
The concluding words of the Mass, “The Mass has ended. Go in peace” are originally rendered in Latin “Ite, missa est finita” or “Ite, missa est” (the shorter version). However, it does not simply declare that the Mass has ended or that the sacrifice has been accomplished. It also contains an exhortation to make your life a Mass.
The Latin “missa” also shares the same root as the word “missio” or mission. Hence, when the priest says “Ite, missa est”, it also means, “Go, you are sent to a mission”. And what is that mission? To make your life a Eucharist. Just how do we accomplish this mission of making our life Eucharistic? Let us go to the Eucharistic acts of Jesus at the Last Supper.
“For on the night He was betrayed, He Himself took bread, and, giving you thanks, He said the blessing, broke the bread and gave it to His disciples…” (Eucharistic Prayer III). Four action words emerge from this text from the Eucharistic Prayer: take, bless, break, give. A Eucharistic life is taken, blessed, broken and given.
TAKEN. Jesus, one time, assured His disciples: “It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain” (Jn 15: 16). In our baptism, Jesus has chosen and taken us from among the many peoples in the world. Our Catholic faith is a pure gift, free initiative of our Lord. His words to the Prophet Jeremiah is a concrete proof to this: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart” (Jer 1: 15).
Thank God for having set you apart from among the peoples in the world today as His followers. Be grateful always for the gift of faith. This faith makes it possible for you to enter into communion with God and live a divine life. In the Holy Eucharist, we are divinized because we commune with God Himself!
BLESSED. Jesus does not just choose you and take you because you are the best among the rest, the cream of the crop. He loves you for who you are, not for what you have. As proven in God’s action in the history of Israel, God does not choose the qualified; He qualifies the chosen, that is, He fills with His blessings those whom He set apart. How does the Lord bless your life?
Recall the blessings you have received from the Lord in the past years. Do not focus so much your attention on the blessings your neighbor received. It will make you envious. Focus on your blessings. Then, fill your heart with gratitude. Only a grateful heart can truly be happy. Happiness is not what makes us grateful. Gratefulness is what makes us happy.
Your greatest blessing is the gift of your person. However, the gift of persons is not there only to thank for: it is also there to be shared. But before your person can be shared, the Lord allows it to be broken first.
BROKEN. Our own brokenness is not always a tragedy, in the same way that the Lord’s crucifixion is not a tragedy, although at first, it appears to be so. Sometimes, the Lord allows that we may be shattered into pieces, if only to break our ego and self-centeredness. Only when we are broken do we realize how we need God and totally depend on Him alone. Then, we learn how to trust more in God, and less in us!
God said through the Prophet Jeremiah: “Can I not do with you, Israel, as this potter does?... Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, Israel” (Jer 18: 6). Each of us is also like clay in the potter’s hands. In the hands of God, we may be broken into pieces only to be shaped again according to God’s design. In this state, two things are most important: that we remain malleable in order to be shaped easily; and that we remain in God’s hands, the hands of the potter.
SHARED. After we have been broken and shaped according to the heart of the Divine Master, we can now be shared to others. For the blessing of our person – taken, blessed and broken – is not only a GIFT but also a RESPONSIBILITY: the greater the gift, the greater the responsibility! It must be shared.
We are not created for our own consumption. As St. John Paul II said, “Man cannot fully find himself, except through a sincere gift of himself.” The talent, time and treasure you spent in the service of others do not diminish your person and possession. Rather, the sharing completes you. It completes the Eucharistic life in you!
Taken, Blessed, Broken, Shared. This Eucharistic cycle is what makes our life truly a living Eucharist. Have you heard of the story of a kamote tops (sweet potato), a goat and a man?
Once a kamote tops saw a goat and admired how a goat can go anywhere. It told the goat, “I want to be like you…” The goat said, “If you want to be like me, I have to eat you so that you will converted into me and where I am, you also may be”. So, the kamote tops agreed and puff, it was eaten by the goat.
The goat saw a man and wondered what it would be like to be human being. The goat said to the man, “I want to be like you…” The man said, “If you want to be like me, I have to eat you so that you will be converted into me and where I am, you also may be”. So, the goat became a caldereta”.
Brothers and sisters, do you want to be like God? Strive to make your life a Eucharistic life! AMEN.