Category Archives: Good Thursday

Thoughts on Good Thursday

This leads us to reflect on the institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper. It took place within a ritual meal commemorating the foundational event of the people of Israel: their deliverance from slavery in Egypt. This ritual meal, which called for the sacrifice of lambs (cf. Ex 12:1-28, 43-51), was a remembrance of the past, but at the same time a prophetic remembrance, the proclamation of a deliverance yet to come. The people had come to realize that their earlier liberation was not definitive, for their history continued to be marked by slavery and sin. The remembrance of their ancient liberation thus expanded to the invocation and expectation of a yet more profound, radical, universal and definitive salvation. This is the context in which Jesus introduces the newness of his gift. In the prayer of praise, the Berakah, he does not simply thank the Father for the great events of past history, but also for his own “exaltation.” In instituting the sacrament of the Eucharist, Jesus anticipates and makes present the sacrifice of the Cross and the victory of the resurrection. At the same time, he reveals that he himself is the true sacrificial lamb, destined in the Father’s plan from the foundation of the world, as we read in The First Letter of Peter (cf. 1:18-20). By placing his gift in this context, Jesus shows the salvific meaning of his death and resurrection, a mystery which renews history and the whole cosmos. The institution of the Eucharist demonstrates how Jesus’ death, for all its violence and absurdity, became in him a supreme act of love and mankind’s definitive deliverance from evil.

Sacramentum  Caritatis No. 10

Today is Holy Thursday. The whole Church  gathers in spirit in the Upper Room where the Apostles gathered with Christ for the Last Supper. Let us reread Christ’s words of farewell in the Gospel of St. John. Among the many treasures of this text, I would like to pause at the following words spoken by Jesus to the Apostles: “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you” (15:13-15).

“Friends”: this is what Jesus calls the Apostles. This is what he also wishes to call us who, thanks to the sacrament of Holy Orders, share in his priesthood. Let us listen to these words with great emotion and humility. They contain the truth. First of all, the truth about friendship, but also a truth about ourselves who share in the priesthood of Christ as ministers of the Eucharist. Could Jesus have expressed to us his friendship any more eloquently than by enabling us, as priests of the New Covenant, to act in his name, in persona Christi Capitis? Precisely this takes place in all our priestly service, when we administer the sacraments and especially when we celebrate the Eucharist. We repeat the words that he spoke over the bread and wine and, through our ministry, the same consecration that he brought about takes place. Can there be a fuller expression of friendship than this? It goes to the very heart of our priestly ministry.

Christ says: “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide” (Jn 15:16). At the end of this Letter, I offer these words to you as a wish. On the day of the institution of the sacrament of the priesthood let us make this our wish for one another, dear Brothers: that we may go and bear fruit, like the Apostles, and that our fruit may abide.

May Mary, the Mother of Christ the Eternal High Priest, sustain us with her constant protection along the path of our ministry, especially when the road becomes difficult and the work weighs more heavily upon us. May the faithful Virgin intercede with her Son, that we may never lack the courage to witness to him in the various fields of our apostolate, working with him so that the world may have life and have it in abundance (cf. Jn 10:10).

Pope John Paul II,  Vatican, on 16 March, the Fifth Sunday of Lent, in the year 1997, the nineteenth of my Pontificate. 26 March 1997

The table, you remember, was usually on three sides of a square, or else an ordinary long table arranged so that the guests reclined on couches on three sides and could be served from the fourth side. There would be one place of greatest honor, perhaps at the corner, the head of the central couch. Then there would be places of greater or less honor. It may have been at this time of taking their places that there arose a dispute among the disciples as to which one was the greatest. Of course there could have been no question as to which place was the Lord’s. But He arose from the table, and taking off His loose outer garment, and fastening a towel around His waist, He took the brass basin and pouring water into it, He began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel. This was a service generally done by one of the humblest servants, and this service the Lord of heaven and earth did for His disciples, which showed them and us the holiness of serving, and that nothing is too humble for us to do for one another. There is no true greatness but in service.