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Tag Archives: Passover

“THE WORLD PASSES”, BUT I DO NOT WISH TO PASS WITH THIS WORLD

“O MY SAVIOUR, RECEIVE YOUR TRAVELLER, BEHOLD ME HERE, READY!

THE RESURRECTION

“O day of triumph for the Saviour! O day of joy for all the faithful. I adore you from my heart, O Jesus, triumphing over death. Truly, this day is your Passover, that is to say, your passing, in which you pass from death to life.

Give us the grace, O Lord Jesus, to make our Pasch with you, passing to a new and holy life.

‘The world passes’, but I do not wish to pass with the world; I wish to pass to my Father. This is the journey, which I have to make, I wish to make it with you. In the ancient passover, the Jews who went forth from Egypt in order to go to the Promised Land, had to appear in the garb of travellers, with staves in their hands, and to hasten to eat the Pasch, so that they might be ready to set out at any moment.

This is the state in which the Christian should place himself, in order to make his passover with Jesus Christ: O my Saviour, receive your traveller, behold me here, ready: I desire to pass with you from this world to your Father, since you have wished that he should be my Father also.

TO SET FREE THOSE WHOM THE FEAR OF DEATH HELD IN A PERPETUAL SLAVERY

My Saviour, I believe that you have not overcome death for your self alone. You have overcome it for us, who believe in you.

I adore you, O Jesus, my Redeemer. I adore you, O Jesus, come to life again, for yourself and for your followers, whom you have filled with your spirit, which is the spirit of eternal life. You have submitted to death, IN ORDER THAT DEATH MIGHT BE CONQUERED, AND SATAN DISARMED, and in order to set free those whom the fear of death held in a perpetual slavery. Let us, my soul, appreciate these words of our Saviour, which rob death of all its terrors: ‘I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, even though he were dead, shall live; he who lives and believes in me, shall never die.’

I believe it, Lord, it is so; my sole Redeemer, I adore you.

O Jesus, you are, according to your word, ‘my resurrection and my life.’
– Bossuet

 

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MAUNDY THURSDAY, BIBLE READING I (EXODUS 12:1-8, 11-14)

The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt: “This month is to be the first of all the others for you. Speak to the whole community of Israel and say, ‘On the tenth day of this month each man must take an animal from the flock, one for each family: one animal for each household. If the household is too small to eat the animal, a man must join with his neighbour, the nearest to his house, as the number of persons required. You must take into account what each can eat in deciding the number for the animal. It must be an animal without blemish, a male one year old; you may take it from either sheep or goats. You must keep it till the fourteenth day of the month when the whole assembly of the community of Israel shall slaughter it between the two evenings. Some of the blood must then be taken and put on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses where it is eaten.

That night, the flesh is to be eaten, roasted over the fire; it must be eaten with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. You shall eat it hastily: it is a passover in honour of the Lord. That night, I will go through the land of Egypt and strike down all the first-born in the land of Egypt, man and beast alike, and I shall deal out punishment to all the gods of Egypt, I am the Lord!

The blood shall serve to mark the houses that you live in. When I see the blood I will pass over you and you shall escape the destroying plague when I strike the land of Egypt. This is to be a day of remembrance for you, and you must celebrate it as a feast in the Lord’s honour. For all generations you are to declare it a day of festival, for ever.'”

V. The word of the Lord.
R. Thanks be to God.

 

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15th APRIL, GOSPEL READING (JOHN 13:21-33, 36-38)

ONE OF YOU WILL BETRAY ME… BEFORE THE COCK CROWS YOU WILL HAVE DISOWNED ME THREE TIMES.

While at supper with his disciples, Jesus was troubled in spirit and declared, “I tell you most solemnly, one of you will betray me.” The disciples looked at one another, wondering which he meant. The disciple Jesus loved was reclining next to Jesus; Simon Peter signed to him and said, “Ask who it is he means”, so leaning back on Jesus’ breast he said, “Who is it, Lord?” “It is the one,” replied Jesus “to whom I give the piece of bread that I shall dip in the dish.” He dipped the piece of bread and gave it to Judas son of Simon Iscariot.

At that instant, after Judas had taken the bread, Satan entered him. Jesus then said, “What you are going to do, do quickly.” None of the others at table understood the reason he said this. Since Judas had charge of the common fund, some of them thought Jesus was telling him, “Buy what we need for the festival,” or telling him to give something to the poor. As soon as Judas had taken the piece of bread he went out. Night had fallen.
When he had gone Jesus said:
“Now has the Son of Man been glorified,
and in him God has been glorified.
If God has been glorified in him,
God will in turn glorify him in himself,
and will glorify him very soon.
My little children,
I shall not be with you much longer.
You will look for me,
and, as I told the Jews,
where I am going
you cannot come.”

Simon Peter said, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus replied, “Where I am going you cannot follow me now; you will follow me later.” Peter said to him, “Why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” “Lay down your life for me?” answered Jesus. “I tell you most solemnly, before the cock crows you will have disowned me three times.”

V. The Gospel of the Lord.
R. Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.

 

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THE DIVINE PLAN FOR THE SALVATION OF ALL MEN

THE SALVATION HISTORY OF ALL MEN AS REVEALED IN THE BIBLE: JESUS’ LAST DISCOURSE

“Toward the close of the Last Supper there took place the famous last discourse of Jesus to His Apostles before His death. The discourse is both tender and mysterious. Jesus seems to be trying to lead His Apostles to a deeper understanding of the spiritual life which He has come to give them. He has foreseen and has foretold to them their desertion of Him in His hour of trial. He offers them words of consolation and of hope. But the hope is based on the acceptance of profound doctrines on the essence of God and on the divine plan for the redemption of man.

‘LET NOT YOUR HEART BE TROUBLED’

Jesus begins with a word of consolation: ‘Let not your heart be troubled. You believe in God, believe also in me. In My Father’s house there are many mansions. Were it not so, I should have told you, because I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I am coming again, and I will take you to Myself; that where I am, there you also may be. And where I go you know, and the way you know’ (John 14:1-4).

HE WHO SEES JESUS SEES ALSO THE FATHER

The Apostles did not understand Jesus. Thomas objected, ‘Lord, we do not know where thou art going, and how can we know the way?’ (John 14:5). Jesus replied, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but through Me. If you had known Me, you would also have known My Father. And henceforth you do know Him, and you have seen him’ (John 14:6-7).

THE WAY, AND THE TRUTH, AND THE LIFE

Again Thomas is mystified and he asks to be shown the Father. Jesus replies that he who sees Jesus sees also the Father. Then Jesus repeats what He had said on a previous occasion; He and the Father are one. While being distinct Persons, they are nevertheless both God, the one true God. Hence he who sees Jesus sees also the Father, for the Father is in His Son and the Son is in His Father.

JESUS TELLS THEM THAT THIS DOCTRINE IS A DIVINE REVELATION

Jesus then tells them that this doctrine is a divine revelation from the Father, a revelation guaranteed by the wondrous works, the miracles which the Father works through Jesus. If the Apostles will believe in Jesus because of these works, then they themselves will perform even more wondrous things, so that the Father may be glorified in Jesus.

‘IF YOU LOVE ME KEEP MY COMMANDMENTS’

Following this promise Jesus makes an even greater, though more mysterious promise. ‘If you love Me,’ He says, ‘keep My commandments. And I will ask the Father and He will give you another Advocate to dwell with you forever, the Spirit of truth whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. But you shall know Him because He will dwell with you, and be in you’ (John 14:15-17).

THE HOLY SPIRIT

Jesus returns several times throughout His discourse to this theme of the ‘Advocate,’ the ‘Spirit’ whom He and the Father will send to the Apostles. ‘But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your mind whatever I have said to you’ (John 14:26). ‘But when the Advocate has come, whom I will send you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness concerning me’ (John 15:26). ‘It is expedient for you that I depart. For if I do not go, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. And when he has come he will convict the world of sin, and of justice, and of judgment: of sin, because they do not believe in Me; of justice, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no more; and of judgment, because the prince of this world has already been judged. Many things yet I have to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. But when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, he will teach you all the truth. For he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he will hear he will speak, and the things that are to come he will declare to you. He will glorify me, because he will receive of what is mine and declare it to you. All things that the Father has are mine. That is why I have said that he will receive of what is mine and declare it to you’ (John 16:7-15).

FULL OF MYSTERY

The words of Jesus are full of mystery. The ‘Advocate,’ the ‘Holy Spirit’ of whom He speaks is evidently a Person distinct from the Father and from Himself, for the Father and the Son send Him to the Apostles. Moreover Jesus must depart and go to the Father in order to send the ‘Advocate’ to the Apostles.

THE SPIRIT OF LOVE AND TRUTH

The ‘Holy Spirit’ is the Spirit of truth. He will teach the Apostles all things, reminding the Apostles of all that Jesus Himself has taught them, and even revealing to them the things that are to come. He will glorify Jesus, the Son of God, because the things which He will speak He will have received from Jesus, Who received them from His Father.

THE CENTRAL MYSTERY OF THE GODHEAD

The Holy Spirit is a Person distinct from Jesus and from His Father. At this moment Jesus does not make it clear just Who this Person is. But, after His resurrection, when commissioning the Apostles to make disciples of all nations, Jesus commands them to baptise men ‘in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit’ (Matthew 28:19).

Here the Spirit is put on a par with the Father and the Son. He is, therefore, God, just as the Father and the Son are God. At the Last Supper, then, Jesus is speaking to the Apostles of the great central mystery of the Godhead: the one true God is three Persons, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, all three Persons equally God. The Son has received the Godhead from the Father, for all the things which the Father has are the Son’s. Since the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father (John 15:26), and since He has received from the Son all the things which the Father has (John 16:14-15), it follows that He has received the Godhead from both the Father and the Son.

JESUS’ INTRODUCTION TO THE DOCTRINE OF THE MOST HOLY TRINITY

In these mysterious words Jesus introduces the Apostles to the profound doctrine of the Most Blessed Trinity. The doctrine, rather the revelation of this truth about the mysterious depths of the inner life of God, is indeed a great gift to men. If it is a great good to know even the least grain of truth about God, surely it is a magnificent privilege to know the secret of the inner Trinitarian life of God.

A MAGNIFICENT PRIVILEGE

But in the context of the last discourse Jesus does not insist on the intellectual benefits of a knowledge of the existence of the Trinity. Rather He offers the knowledge of the Trinity as a means of consolation and encouragement. Even though Jesus Himself is to leave the Apostles and return to His Father, His going will not leave the Apostles orphans, for if they love Jesus and keep His commandments, the Father and the Son will come to them invisible and dwell in them. Moreover the Holy Spirit will also come to them and ‘be’ in them (John 14:17 and 23).

The Apostles, therefore, are not to be ‘troubled’ or ‘afraid’ or ‘scandalised’ (John 14:27 and John 16:1). Jesus will leave them for a time, not only at His death but even at the time of His ascension to His Father. His followers will be hated and persecuted by the world, even as Jesus Himself was (John 15:18-25).

Nevertheless Jesus will leave to His Apostles ‘peace,’ not the kind of ‘peace’ which the world can give but a true peace, a peace of soul founded on the presence of the Trinity in themselves. Even though Jesus will have left them for a time, they will have the testimony of the Spirit of truth Who will glorify Jesus. The world will persecute the Apostles, even kill them in the name of God. But they will give their own testimony to Jesus, for the Spirit will testify through them. They need not fear or be troubled, for the victory – a victory in the spiritual order, the order of eternal truth – is already won. The devil, the prince of this world, is already judged (John 16:10). He has already lost the struggle against God for the souls of men. His actions against Jesus Himself, which are soon to lead to the death of Jesus on the Cross, can only make known the great love which Jesus has for His Father. ‘But he (the prince of this world) comes that the world may know that I love the Father, and that I do as the Father has commanded me’ (John 14:31).

INNER AND OUTER PEACE OF SOUL FOUNDED ON THE PRESENCE OF THE TRINITY

These words are consoling, not only because they reveal the Trinity to mankind but also because they make clear the divine plan for the salvation of men. Because of sin – the sins of men and angels – the devil is the ‘prince of this world,’ ruling men to their destruction. But God the Father sends God the Son to save men. He accomplishes this by laying down His life – His human life – for men. The devil, and men led by the devil, will bring about the death of Jesus; but, in so doing, they will be unconsciously bringing to fruition the plan of God, for the death of Jesus will mean the salvation of men, those men who become the disciples of Jesus. And thus will the Father be glorified. ‘In this is my Father glorified, that you may bear very much fruit, and become my disciples’ (John 15:8).

THE NEED TO BEAR MUCH FRUIT TO QUALIFY AS A GENUINE FOLLOWER OF JESUS CHRIST

Men will be led back to God, back to the Father through union with Jesus. ‘I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine-dresser. Every branch in me that bears no fruit he will take away; and every branch that bears fruit he will cleanse, that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it remain on the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for without me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me, he shall be cast outside as the branch and wither; and they shall gather them up and cast them into the fire, and they shall burn. If you abide in me, and if my words abide in you, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done to you. In this is my Father glorified, that you may bear very much fruit, and become my disciples’ (John 15:1-8).

STRENGTHENING THE FAITH, LOVE AND HOPE

This union with Jesus will be the work of the Holy Spirit, Who will come to give testimony to Jesus. Jesus Himself will return to His Father and send the Holy Spirit to do this work.

These details of the divine plan to save men Jesus reveals to the Apostles at the Last Supper. He does so in order to console them and strengthen them in their faith in Himself. ‘These things I have spoken to you that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have affliction. But take courage, I have overcome the world’ (John 16:33).

‘I HAVE OVERCOME THE WORLD’

Since union with Jesus is the means of salvation, it is most fitting that Jesus concludes His last discourse to the Apostles with a prayer to His Father, a prayer whose chief request is for the establishment of this union of men with Jesus.

JESUS PRAYS FOR THE ESTABLISHMENT OF THE UNION OF MEN WITH HIM

Jesus raised His eyes to heaven and prayed: ‘Father, the hour has come! Glorify thy Son, that thy Son may glorify thee, even as thou hast given him power over all flesh, in order that to all thou hast given him he may give everlasting life. Now this is everlasting life, that they may know thee, the only true God, and him whom thou hast sent, Jesus Christ’ (John 17:1-3).

JESUS PRAYS FOR HIS APOSTLES

Then Jesus prayed for His Apostles: ‘I pray for them; not for the world do I pray, but for those whom thou hast given me, because they are thine; and all things that are mine are thine, and thine are mine; and I am glorified in them. And I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I am coming to thee. Holy Father, keep in thy name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one even as we are. While I was with them, I kept them in thy name. Those whom thou hast given me I guarded, and not one of them perished except the son of perdition, in order that the scripture might be fulfilled’ (John 17:9-12).

LASTLY JESUS PRAYED FOR ALL THOSE WHO WOULD COME TO BELIEVE IN HIM THROUGH THE PREACHING OF THE APOSTLES

Lastly Jesus prayed for all those who would come to believe in Him through the preaching of the Apostles. ‘Yet not for these only do I pray, but for those also who through their word are to believe in me, that all may be one, even as thou, Father, in me and I in thee; that they also may be one in us, that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory that thou hast given me, I have given to them, that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them and thou in me; that they may be perfected in unity, and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and that thou hast loved them even as thou hast loved me. Father, I will that where I am, they also whom thou hast given may be with me; in order that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me, because thou hast loved me before the creation of the world. Just Father, the world has not known thee, but I have known thee, and these have known that thou hast sent me. And I have made known to them thy name, and will make it known, in order that the love with which thou hast loved me may be in them and I in them’ (John 17:20-26).

THE CONCLUSION OF THE LAST SUPPER

At the conclusion of this prayer for the union of men with God through Jesus, the Apostles and Jesus concluded the Last Supper with a hymn. Then Jesus and the Apostles left the upper room where they had celebrated the Pasch.”
– Martin J. Healy S.T.D., 1959

 

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THE SALVATION HISTORY OF ALL MANKIND AS REVEALED IN THE BIBLE: THE LAST SUPPER

WHY WAS JESUS CHRIST TO BE ARRESTED AT NIGHT, RATHER THAN IN BROAD DAYLIGHT?

“It was Wednesday, the second day before the Feast of the Passover. The enemies of Jesus were anxious to defeat Him. Having failed to discredit Him, they were now determined to put Him to death. Even though Jesus Himself had refused to accept the role of a political Messias who would lead the people in revolt against the Roman authority, the Pharisees and Scribes were apprehensive that He might stir up such a revolt during the eight days of the Paschal Feast. If He did, then the wrath of Pilate, the Roman Procurator, would direct the power of the Roman soldiery against Jerusalem. To forestall this possibility, they felt, it was necessary to put Jesus to death. But they were also afraid of the people. Many of them had manifested a belief in Jesus. If Jesus was arrested publicly, the people might stir up such a tumult as would induce Pilate to act. How could they take Jesus by stealth?

STABBED IN THE BACK BY ONE OF HIS CLOSEST FRIENDS

Their problem was solved for them by the treachery of Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve Apostles. Each day, after teaching in the Temple, Jesus withdrew at night either to Bethany or to the Mount of Olives. Judas undertook to inform the enemies of His whereabouts, so that they might take Him secretly, without causing any public tumultuous demonstration.

WHAT WAS JUDAS’ REAL MOTIVE OF HIS BETRAYAL?

The action of Judas is the most infamous betrayal in all human history. The opinions of men on the character and action of Judas have varied with their attitude toward Jesus Himself. To some, who reject Jesus as the Messias of God, Judas appears as a follower of the Pharisees. The strength of the Pharisees’ opposition to Jesus finally convinced Judas that Jesus was a seducer of the people, a man who would lead the people away from true Judaism. In betraying Jesus Judas would be doing a service to the people and to God. The nobility and purity of this motive, however, are somewhat discoloured by the willingness of Judas to accept thirty pieces of silver to betray Jesus.

A REVOLUTIONARY?

Others would like to think that the betrayal was simply a stratagem adopted by Judas to force Jesus to manifest His power and inaugurate the political revolution which Judas desired. Since the Apostles, like the people generally, still looked for political liberation, the actions of Judas, in such a case, would be stripped of their sickening appearance. This is not, perhaps, impossible. But once again the avaricious spirit of Judas and his acceptance of money to betray His Master detract also from the sincerity of his motive.

NO DOUBTS ABOUT HIS PART IN THE EVENTS

On the other hand the one thing clear in the Gospel story is that Judas, who was avaricious, did accept money to betray Jesus. St Matthew states that it was Judas who first mentioned money, saying to the chief priests, ‘What are you willing to give me, and I will deliver him to you?’ (Matthew 26:15).

THE IMPORTANCE OF FREE WILL IN HISTORY

Probably, then, Judas was moved to his action both by disappointment at the refusal of Jesus to become a political Messias and by a love of money.
The fall of Judas is, however, a striking instance of God’s way of dealing with men and the importance of free will in history. God knows that Judas will betray his Master. Yet Jesus chooses Judas as one of the favoured twelve Apostles. This means that, at least at the beginning, Judas was a man of some good will. He could have served his Master faithfully. He could have overcome his own greed for money and power. Jesus, the Son of God, gave him the chance to achieve great spiritual glory. But neither Jesus nor His Father in heaven would force Judas to remain faithful. It was for Judas himself to impress upon history his own likeness as a man of great loyalty or a man of ignominious betrayal.

THE EMPTINESS OF HUMAN REBELLION AGAINST THE WILL OF GOD

The betrayal by Judas is also an instance of the emptiness of human rebellion against the will of God. It was not God’s will that Judas should be unfaithful. ‘Woe to that man by whom he will be betrayed’ (Luke 22:22). But yet, the betrayal will be used by God to accomplish His plan for the salvation of mankind. ‘For the Son of Man indeed goes his way, as it has been determined’ (Luke 22:22a).

WHY THURSDAY, NOT FRIDAY?

On the next day, Thursday, Jesus sent Peter and John to prepare for the celebration of the Paschal Feast at Jerusalem. From St John’s Gospel it would appear that the Sadducees were going to celebrate the Paschal Feast on Friday night that year. The intention of Jesus to celebrate it on Thursday night might be explained by the fact that Galileans, present at the feast, would celebrate it on Thursday in order not to defile the Sabbath, which would begin on Friday evening.

THE HISTORY

On Thursday evening Jesus and His disciples entered Jerusalem and went to the upper room of a house (probably the house of a friend of Jesus) to celebrate Passover. Now the Passover meal was a remembrance of the Exodus, God’s deliverance of the Chosen People from Egypt. It was therefore a joyous feast. The joy of the feast was symbolised by the drinking of four cups of wine and the eating of the Paschal lamb. The feast began with the blessing of the first cup of wine. After this bitter herbs were eaten after being dipped in a sauce composed of nuts, fruit and vinegar. The bitter herbs were a remembrance of the bitter oppression which the Chosen People suffered under the Egyptians. The unleavened bread eaten with the meal was a reminder of the haste with which the Jews had had to depart from Egypt; they had not time to bake leavened bread. The sacrifice of a lamb and the eating of it recalled that the blood of lambs, smeared on the door-posts, had caused the angel of death to ‘pass over’ the houses of the Israelites without bringing death to their firstborn, whereas it had passed through the houses of the Egyptians, bringing death to their firstborn. The entire feast celebrated then the deliverance of the Israelites from Egyptian oppression and from death.

PASSOVER CEREMONIES

After the eating of the herbs the Paschal lamb was brought to the table and the head of the family recalled to all the participants in the feast the deliverance of the Chosen People from Egypt. The second cup of wine was then drunk and the lamb was eaten. Then the third cup was drunk and an act of thanksgiving offered to God. This was followed by the drinking of the fourth cup and the singing of the Hallel, which was composed of Psalms CXIII, 8-18, CXIV-CXVII.

THIS WAS NOT SIMPLY AN ORDINARY PASSOVER MEAL

It was at such a Passover meal that Jesus ate with His Apostles for the last time before His death. Yet it was not simply an ordinary Paschal meal, for Jesus was soon to die for men and this last Passover of Jesus on earth was also the beginning of a new sacrifice which would replace the old Passover.

THE DEATH OF JESUS WILL INSTITUTE THE KINGDOM OF GOD

Jesus began the Passover by saying to the Apostles, ‘I have greatly desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer; for I say to you that I will eat of it no more, until it has been fulfilled in the kingdom of God’ (Luke 22:15-16). Jesus alludes to His own coming suffering and death. The old Paschal sacrifice of a lamb heralded the deliverance of the Chosen People from slavery and death. The passion and death of Jesus will deliver the human race from the slavery of sin and eternal death. The death of Jesus will institute the Kingdom of God.

THE APOSTLES STILL LACKED UNDERSTANDING OF THE SPIRITUAL NATURE OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD

Then Jesus blessed the first cup of wine and said to them, ‘Take this and share it among you; for I say to you that I will not drink of the fruit of the vine, until the kingdom of God comes’ (Luke 22:17-18). Once again Jesus refers to His own approaching death which will establish the Kingdom of God among men.

This reference to the Kingdom of God excited the Apostles and they began to dispute with one another as to which one would be greatest in the kingdom. To us who know the great solemnity of the moment it is somewhat surprising to find the Apostles disputing about so vainglorious a matter at this time. But the Apostles were still worldly-minded and lacking in understanding of the basically spiritual nature of the Kingdom of God.

Jesus at once moved to enlighten them. ‘The kings of the Gentiles,’ He said to them, ‘lord it over them, and they who exercise authority over them are called Benefactors. But not so with you. On the contrary, let him who is great among you become as the youngest, and him who is the chief as the servant. For which is the greater, he who reclines at table, or he who serves? Is it not he who reclines? But I am in your midst as he who serves. But you are they who have continued me in my trials’ (Luke 22:25-28).

THE MEANING OF THE WASHING OF THE FEET

Then Jesus rose from the supper table and girded Himself with a towel. He poured water into a basin and began to wash the feet of His Apostles. Simon Peter at first refused to let Jesus do this for him. Jesus said to him. ‘What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter’ (John 13:7). Peter replied, ‘Thou shalt never wash my feet!’ Jesus answered, ‘If I do not wash thee, thou shalt have no part with me’ (John 13:8). Peter then allowed Jesus to wash his feet.

After Jesus had washed the feet of all the Apostles He said to them, ‘Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Master and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. If, therefore, I the Lord and Master have washed your feet, you also ought to wash the feet of one another. For I have given you an example, that as I have done to you, so you also should do. Amen, amen, I say to you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is one who is sent greater than he who sent him. If you know these things, blessed shall you be if you do them. I do not speak of you all. I know whom I have chosen; but that the Scripture may be fulfilled,

‘He who eats bread with me has lifted
up his heel against me.’

I tell you now before it comes to pass, that when it has come to pass you may believe that I am he. Amen, amen, I say to you, he who receives anyone I send, receives me; and he who receives me, receives him who sent me’ (John 13:12-20).

By washing the feet of the Apostles, Jesus, Who was the Lord and Master of the Apostles, sought to teach them the lesson of humility. What makes the lesson even more impressive is the fact that Jesus washed the feet of Judas Iscariot, even though He knew that Judas was about to betray Him.

WHO IS IT?

Then, while they were eating, Jesus said to them, ‘Amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me – one who is eating with me’ (Mark 14:18).

The Apostles began to wonder which one it might be. Peter asked John who it might be. John asked Jesus. Jesus replied to him, ‘It is he to whom I shall dip the bread, and give it to him’ (John 13:26).

Jesus then dipped bread and gave it to Judas. Then He said to Judas, ‘What thou dost, do quickly’ (John 13:27). Judas departed to betray Jesus. None of the others, except perhaps John and Peter, understood what was taking place. Some thought that Judas was going to execute some errand for Jesus.

‘THIS IS MY BODY’

After the departure of Judas the paschal lamb was brought to the table and the second cup of wine was served. Then Jesus took bread in His hands, blessed it, broke it and gave it to the Apostles, saying, ‘This is my body, which is being given for you; do this in remembrance of me.’ Then He took a cup of wine, blessed it and gave it to them, saying, ‘All of you drink this; for this is my blood of the new covenant, which is being shed for many unto the forgiveness of sins’ (Luke 22:19; Matthew 26:27-28).

AT THIS POINT JESUS HAD DEPARTED FROM THE USUAL PASSOVER CEREMONIAL

This was the most solemn act of the Last Supper. It was not simply a usual part of a Passover meal. At this point Jesus departed from the usual Passover ceremonial. Jesus had already promised to give His followers His own Body to eat and His own Blood to drink. Now He fulfils this promise. At His words bread really becomes His Body and wine really becomes His Blood. Moreover the Body and Blood which Jesus thus offers the Apostles are the Body and Blood which will be separated in death on the Cross at Calvary. This is the Body which shall be given for men and the Blood which shall be shed for the forgiveness of sins. Jesus is offering His Body and Blood, His life as a sacrifice for the salvation of all mankind. In so doing He is making a new covenant, a new contract between men and God: ‘this is my blood of the new covenant.’ It was customary among the peoples of the Middle East to seal a covenant in blood. Jesus is now sealing a new covenant between God and man by His own Blood shed for the forgiveness of the sins of all men.

‘DO THIS IN MEMORY OF ME’

In addition, this is not a rite to be performed just this once. Jesus intends that this sacrificial offering of His Blood shall continue until the final establishment of His kingdom at the end of time. ‘Do this in remembrance of me,’ He says. And St Paul tells us, ‘For as often as you shall eat this bread and drink this chalice, you shall show the death of the Lord, until he comes.’ St Paul referring, of course, to the second coming of Jesus at the end of time to judge all men and institute the eternal Kingdom of God.

THE NEW COVENANT

By telling the Apostles to repeat His own actions in turning bread into His Body and wine into His Blood and to offer this Body and Blood to God as a sacrifice, Jesus made the Apostles priests, empowered by Him to offer the sacrifice of His Body and Blood, and empowered to pass on this tremendous gift to those who would succeed them in the Kingdom of God on earth.

Jesus blesses, or consecrates, the bread and the wine separately. Thus He symbolises by this ritual and mystical separation of His Body and Blood the actual separation which will take place on the next day on the Cross. At this moment Jesus is, if we may so speak, beginning the inauguration of the new pact between God and men which will be sealed on Friday by the actual shedding of His Blood, the offering of His human life for the sins of men.

UNTIL THE SECOND COMING OF JESUS

But this Body and Blood, made mysteriously present under the appearances, the sign of bread and wine, made thus present by the words and the power of Jesus, are not only a sacrifice offered to God. They are also a sacrament, a sacred sign instituted by God to give grace to men. For the Body and Blood thus present under the sign of bread and wine are the Body and Blood of Jesus, the Son of God, the Author of Grace. This is what Jesus meant when He said, ‘He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood hath everlasting life: and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed: and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood abideth in me: and I in him’ (John 6:55-57).

‘HE THAT EATETH MY FLESH AND DRINKETH MY BLOOD ABIDETH IN ME AND I IN HIM’

Nor did Jesus, in instituting what we now call the Eucharist, the sacrament and sacrifice of His Body and Blood, cater to any gross cannibalistic understanding of His promise and His action. The eating of His flesh and the drinking of His Blood minister not to the grossly material nourishment of men’s flesh, but rather to the spiritual nourishment of their souls. By receiving the Body and Blood of Jesus His followers attain spiritual union with Him and, through Him, with His Father in heaven.

THE NEW COVENANT BETWEEN GOD AND MEN

In instituting the Eucharist Jesus had begun a new covenant between God and men. That covenant He was to seal on the next day with His Blood. Judas had already gone to make the arrangeements for His betrayal into the hands of His enemies. Jesus knew that the end of His earthly life was near. But He also knew that His apparent humiliation in death was to end in the triumph of His resurrection and ascension into Heaven. So He said to the Apostles, ‘Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me, and, as I said to the Jews, ‘Where I go you cannot come,’ so to you also I say it now’ (John 13:31-33).

THE FRUIT YOU WILL BE RECOGNISED BY

But before He ascends to heaven Jesus gives His Apostles a new commandment, a new rule of life, a rule which will enable men to recognise them as the disciples of Jesus: ‘A new commandment I give you, that you love one another: that as I have loved you, you also love one another. By this will all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another’ (John 13:34-35).

Because of His love for all men Jesus is about to shed His blood as a propitiation to God for the sins of men. As He Himself had said, no man can have greater love for a friend than to lay down his life for the friend. This is the love which Jesus now commands His followers to exercise toward all men. This all-embracing Christian love will be the distinguishing mark of the follower, the disciple of Jesus.

After giving this wonderful but difficult commandment of love the mind of Jesus turns in sorrow to the thought that His Apostles will fail Him in His hour of trial. ‘You will all be scandalised this night because of me,’ He said; ‘for it is written, ‘I will smite the shepherd, and the flock will be scattered’ (Matthew 26:31). Jesus applies to Himself the prophecy of the prophet Zacharias, ‘O sword… Strike the shepherd and the sheep shall be scattered’ (Zacharias [Zechariah] 13:7).

But immediately He gives them a note of hope: ‘But after I have risen, I will go before you into Galilee’ (Matthew 26:32).

‘ALL SHALL BE SCANDALISED’

The Apostles, still not understanding that Jesus must die for the sins of men, and still trusting in His power, protest that they will not desert their Master. Peter is especially vehement in his protestation: ‘Even though all shall be scandalised because of thee, I will never be scandalised’ (Matthew 26:33). Jesus sadly rebuked him for his presumption, saying, ‘Amen I say to thee, this very night, before a cock crows, thou wilt deny me thrice’ (Matthew 26:34).

But Jesus also knows that Peter and the Apostles will repent their failure and will return to Him in faith. And so He says to Peter, ‘Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith may not fail; and do thou, when once thou hast turned again, strengthen thy brethren’ (Luke 22:31-32).

JESUS PRAYED FOR PETER

Why Jesus chose as His Apostles men who would fail Him in His hour of trial is a question which only God can answer with certainty. What is clear to us in the Gospel story is that Jesus knew that the eleven Apostles would repent of their failure and be all the stronger for it. To make certain this turn of events He prays for Peter. He has already promised to make Peter the foundation stone of His Church. Now He prays that Peter, in spite of his failure in the crucial hour of Jesus, will retain his faith and so be able to strengthen the faith of the others. Because Jesus is the Son of God, the prayer will be heard. The faith of the Apostles will be steadfast because the faith of Peter will be firm.

Peter, even in the face of the warning of Jesus, was obdurate in protesting his courageous loyalty. ‘Even if I should have to die with thee, I will not deny thee’ (Matthew 26:35). The other Apostles joined with him in the same resolution.

DIFFICULTIES AHEAD

Jesus had tried to warn them of their own weakness. They would not listen. He tried once again. He reminded them that when He first sent them out to preach the coming of the Kingdom of God they had lacked nothing, they had been well received in the countryside. But now everything would be changed. He Himself would be regarded as a criminal. He referred to Himself the prophecy of Isaias [Isaiah], ‘And he was reckoned among the wicked.’ His followers would also be so regarded. Catering for the moment to their fiery Galilean spirit He said to them, ‘Let him who has no sword sell his tunic and buy one’ (Luke 22:36).

Jesus was not counselling His Apostles to spread the Kingdom of God by the sword. But He was trying to impress upon them the difficulty they would face in retaining their loyalty to and their faith in Himself.

The Apostles, however, took up the reference to a sword literally and bravely replied, ‘Lord, behold, here are two swords’ (Luke 22:38). What were two swords against the Temple guards or against the Roman might? But Jesus, knowing that His kingdom would grow by grace and faith and not by the sword, replied indulgently, ‘It is enough’ (Luke 22:38).”
– Martin J. Healy S.T.D., 1959

 

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“THE PRIEST MENTIONED ‘PASCHAL MYSTERY’; WHAT EXACTLY DOES THAT TERM MEAN?”

• “QUESTION: I heard a priest in a sermon recently mention the term ‘paschal mystery.’ I had heard it mentioned on other occasions but this time it hit me that I really did not understand what it means. I am fairly sure that there are others like me. Would you be kind enough to answer this question in your ‘question box’.

• ANSWER: Thank you for your question. Like you I think there are many who may not fully understand its meaning. Briefly – The Paschal Mystery is the greatest event of the Christian Faith – it is ‘the passion, death, resurrection, ascension of Jesus Christ and the descent of the Holy Spirit on the feast of Pentecost.’

It reflects the Jewish Passover which is God’s act of delivering the Jewish People from Egypt. In the ‘Paschal Mystery’ Christ ‘passed over’ to the Father in His passion, death, resurrection and ascension drawing all humankind with Him. We celebrate the Paschal Mystery during Holy Week and the Easter Season and indeed every time we offer Mass which makes present again the one eternal sacrifice of Jesus Christ.”
– This article was published in “Saint Martin Magazine” issue March 2004. For subscriptions please visit http://www.stmartin.ie (external link).

 

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THE SALVATION HISTORY OF ALL MANKIND AS REVEALED IN THE BIBLE: ISRAEL’S LIBERATION FROM SLAVERY IN EGYPT

THE CHOSEN PEOPLE – THE LIBERATION (FROM THE BOOK OF EXODUS)

“God Himself had foretold the sojourn of the Chosen People in the land of Egypt. On one occasion when He was testing the faith of Abraham, God said to him: ‘Know thou beforehand that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land not their own, and they shall bring them under bondage, and afflict them, four hundred years. But I will judge the nation they shall serve, and after this they shall come out with great substance’ (Genesis 15: 13-14).

THEIR LONG STAY IN EGYPT WAS BENEFICIAL

The stay in Egypt began well. Jacob, his sons and their families entered Egypt under favourable circumstances. Joseph, the son of Jacob, was ruling the empire for Pharaoh. Through his kindness the land of Gessen was given to them. There they prospered. Through the years they increased in numbers until they ‘filled the land’ (Exodus 1:7). No doubt… their long dwelling in Egypt was of great benefit to them. They learned the art of farming as practised by the Egyptians. They became aware of the value of a strong systematic government. They became acquainted with the arts and the artistic techniques of the Egyptians.

MEANWHILE, ABRAHAM’S DESCENDANTS HAD GROWN INTO A TRUE NATION

In the providence of God they were able to preserve their religious beliefs. This was made possible by the fact that they dwelled in a land of their own and were thus preserved from the contagion of the idolatrous and polytheistic beliefs and practices of the Egyptians. Some of them seem to have gone into the cities of the empire. Moses, their great leader, was probably born in or near the capital of Egypt. But the descendants of Abraham who dwelt in the cities would have been assisted in maintaining their religious beliefs by the example of their relatives who dwelt in Gessen.

For several hundred years, then, the Chosen People dwelt in Egypt, increasing in numbers until they formed a true nation, benefiting from the civilising factors of the Egyptian culture, and yet keeping alive and strong their faith in the God of their fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

THE SHEER SIZE OF A ‘NATION WITHIN A NATION’ POSED A SECURITY RISK

They became so numerous that a Pharaoh ‘who knew not Joseph’ began to fear them. As is usual in such cases his fear led him to oppress them. ‘Behold,’ he said, ‘the people of the children of Israel are numerous and stronger than we. Come, let us wisely oppress them, lest they multiply; and if any war shall rise against us, join with our enemies, and having overcome us, depart out of the land’ (Exodus 1:9-10).

The Israelites were impressed into forced labour. With their forced labour the Pharaoh built the storehouse cities of Pithom and Amesses. When even this severe oppression did not reduce their numbers the Pharaoh decreed that all male children of the Israelites should be killed at birth by the midwives. When the midwives failed to carry out this order, he ruled that all male infants should be cast into the river.

THE BIRTH OF MOSES

It was while this decree was in force that he was born whom God was to send to liberate the people from bondage in Egypt. The wife of a man of the tribe of Levi gave birth to a son. Desiring to save his life she hid him for three months. When she could hide him no longer she placed him in a basket of bulrushes and laid the basket by the edge of the river. She placed his sister near by to watch what would happen.

The daughter of the Pharaoh came to the river to bathe. When she saw the basket she sent one of her maids to fetch it to her. When she saw the infant she took compassion on it and decided to save it. The child’s sister came up and offered the services of a Hebrew woman to nurse the child. When Pharaoh’s daughter assented, the girl brought the child’s own mother to nurse it. When the child was grown Pharaoh’s daughter adopted him and called him Moses.

MOSES IS ADOPTED INTO THE EGYPTIAN ROYAL HOUSEHOLD

Because he was nursed and brought up by his own mother Moses retained his allegiance to his own people. But, as the adopted child of an Egyptian princess, he learned the ways of the Pharaoh’s court. This surely fitted him for the role of leader to his people to which God later called him.

MOSES KILLS AN EGYPTIAN OVERSEER

One day Moses saw one of the Egyptian overseers striking one of the Hebrew workmen. In his anger at this harsh treatment of one of his fellow-countrymen he slew the Egyptian. Some of his own brethren spread the story abroad, and when it came to the ears of the Pharaoh he determined to kill Moses, but Moses fled to the land of Midian. Here he married one of the daughters of Jethro, the priest of the Midianites.

THE ROLE OF MAN’S FREE WILL IN THE SALVATION HISTORY:

MOSES IS CHOSEN AS A LEADER

Meanwhile the oppression of the Israelites became so burdensome to them that they cried out to God to save them. God took pity upon them and set about their deliverance. He appeared to Moses near the Mountain Horeb. He appeared as a burning flame in the burning bush.

GOD APPEARS TO MOSES IN THE BURNING BUSH

He said to Moses: ‘I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob… I have seen the affliction of my people in Egypt and I have heard their cry: because of the rigour of them that are over the works. And knowing their sorrow I am come down to deliver them out of the hands of the Egyptians; and to bring them out of the land into a good and spacious land, into a land that floweth with milk and honey, to the places of the Chanaanite, and Hethite, and Amorrhite, and Pherezite, and Hevite and Jebusite. For the cry of the children of Israel is come unto me: and I have seen their affliction, wherewith they are oppressed by the Egyptians. But come, and I will send thee to Pharaoh, that thou mayst bring forth my people, the children of Israel out of Egypt’ (Exodus 3:6-10).

The encounter of God with Moses at the mountain Horeb reveals very clearly the role that free will plays in the history of man. In response to the pleas of His Chosen People God freely choses Moses to be the deliverer of the Jews. Nor does God destroy the free will of Moses by this choice.

Moses is very reluctant to accept the role to which God calls him. ‘Who am I,’ he protests, ‘that I should go to Pharaoh, and should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?’ (Exodus 3:11). When God insists that he will be the deliverer of the Israelites, Moses objects that ‘they will not believe me, nor hear my voice. But they will say: The Lord hath not appeared to thee’ (Exodus 4:1). God promises him that miracles will confirm his appointment. Moses still seeks to be relieved of the onerous task.

He pleads that he is not eloquent, and besides he has an impediment of speech. Then the Lord said to him: ‘Who made man’s mouth? Or who made the dumb and the deaf, the seeing and the blind? Did not I? Go therefore, and I will be in thy mouth; and I will teach thee what thou shalt speak. But he said: I beseech thee, Lord, send whom thou wilt send’ (Exodus 4:11-13).

Even though God is not pleased with this final protest of Moses, He still insists that He wants Moses to lead the people and He appoints Aaron, the brother of Moses, to act as the mouthpiece of Moses. Even at this critical point in the history of mankind God will not run roughshod over the free will of man. He accedes to all the requests of Moses. His plan for the salvation of mankind will be fulfilled, but only with man’s full cooperation. His almighty power will rescue man from the consequences of sin, but His power will be exercised with patience and even with the divine condescension of miracles.

‘I AM WHO I AM; I AM HE WHO CAUSES THINGS TO EXIST’

It is on this same occasion that God reveals to Moses the Name of God. ‘Moses said to God: Lo, I shall go to the children of Israel, and say to them: The God of your fathers has sent me to you. If they should say to me: What is his name? What shall I say to them? God said to Moses: I AM WHO I AM. He said: Thus shalt thou say to the children of Israel: HE WHO IS hath sent me to you’ (Exodus 3:13-14).

By this name – I AM WHO I AM – God revealed that His nature is existence; He is Himself the reason and the explanation of His own existence. Or it may be, in another meaning of the name, that He wished to call attention to the fact that He is the creator of the world, for the name can also mean ‘He Who causes existence,’ that is, He Who causes things to exist.

• [“PASSPORT REFUSED BY THE EGYPTIAN AUTHORITIES, NO VISA FOR THE ISRAELITES TO EMIGRATE”] •

WHEN THE EGYPTIAN GOVERNMENT IMPOSED EVEN MORE RESTRICTIONS ON THEM: MIRACLES OF THE TEN PLAGUES: FROGS, HAILSTONES, LOCUSTS ETC.

In response to God’s command Moses returns to Egypt to bring about the liberation of his people. But Pharaoh was not of a mind to let the Israelites go. In fact, his answer to Moses’ first request was to inflict even greater hardship upon the people. Moses appealed again to God and God promised to make Pharaoh let the Israelites depart.

To achieve this, God performed the miracle of the ten plagues. He turned the waters of the Nile to blood; He filled the land with frogs which eveninvaded houses; then He sent a plague of cinifs, followed by one of flies; after this the cattle were afflicted with disease; then boils afflicted both men nd beasts; then came a great hail, with stones sobig that they killed whatever men and beasts were out in the fields and destroyed the trees; the eighth plague was of locusts and the ninth, three days of darkness. But Pharaoh hardened his heart and would not let the Israelites go. Then the Lord said to Moses: ‘Yet one plague more will I bring upon Pharaoh and Egypt; and after that he shall let you go, and thrust you out…

THE FIRST CELEBRATION OF THE PASSOVER

‘At midnight I will enter into Egypt. And every first-born in the land of the Egyptians shall die, from the first-born of Pharaoh, who sitteth on his throne, even to the first-born of the handmaid, that is at the mill, and all the first-born of beasts’ (Exodus 11:4-5).

THE SAVING BLOOD OF THE LAMB [CHRIST WILL BE THE LAMB FOR ALL MANKIND]

That the children of the Israelites might be spared from this plague, Moses, under the command of God, instituted the first celebration of the feast of the Pasch or Passover. The Israelites were to take lambs, sacrifice them, and spread the blood of the lambs on the two doorposts and the lintel of their houses. The lambs were then to be eaten with unleavened bread.

At midnight the hand of God struck the land of Egypt and the first-born of every Egyptian home died and the first-born of their cattle. This great punishment inflicted by God on the people of Egypt moved Pharaoh to relent and let the Israelites depart from his land. He sent for Moses and Aaron in the night and said, ‘Arise and go forth from among my people, you and the children of Israel’ (Exodus 12:31).

THE ISRAELITES CROSS THE RED SEA WITH MOSES

THE PARTING OF THE RED SEA

Under divine guidance Moses led his people out of Egypt into the desert and to the Red Sea. Pharaoh repented of his decision to let them go and sent his troops to bring them back to Egypt. When the Israelites perceived the Egyptians pursuing them they lost heart and reproached Moses for leading them to destruction in the wilderness.

But Moses assured them that God would save them.

During the night God sent a strong and burning wind which drove the waters of the Red Sea off a fording place. In the morning the Israelites crossed over the clear portion of the lake. When the Egyptians followed, the wind ceased and the waters returned to their usual place. The Egyptians perished in the returning flood. ‘And the people feared the Lord and Moses, his servant’ (Exodus 14:31).”
– Martin J. Healy S.T.D., 1959

 

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