Holy Thursday, as the first day of the sacred Paschal Triduum (Ang Mga Mahal na Araw), tells us the meaning of Passover as God’s saving action revealed in the wondrous love of Jesus for us (John 13:1-15). The washing of feet symbolizes for Saint John its Eucharistic actualization.
AS a memorial of the beginning of Israel as a people, the annual celebration of the feast of the Passover (Pesah) stands at the head of their calendar (Exodus 12:1-8, 11-14). As it commemorates their exodus from bondage in Egypt into freedom, it is God’s magnanimous power
everywhere and over anyone that is celebrated. When the Lord passed over the Israelites, His protection and deliverance were guaranteed them. The blood of the lamb slaughtered in sacrifice became a sign of salvation for all those marked with it. And the celebration in the form of a meal centering on the lamb, free of all blemish because consecrated to God, underlines God’s spectacular initiative nourishing and giving life to His people.
Jesus’ own passage from this world to the Father is explicitly linked by John to the feast of Passover. His hour, much awaited and the key to the meaning and purpose of His mission, is His Passover for our salvation. His love for His own flock and people is unconditional and up to the end. In and through His passion, death and resurrection, He would bring about His expiatory self-sacrifice in the concrete context of sin and betrayal. Handed over, His body broken and given is “for” them, and His blood shed is for “the new covenant” of their reconciliation with God (1 Corinthians 11:23-26).
Our response of thanksgiving
“How shall we make a return to the Lord for all the good He has done? We offer Him sacrifice of thanksgiving” (Psalm 116:12-13, 15-16, 17-18). It was God then, and it is God now in Jesus Christ who passes over and saves us; it is all His magnanimous initiative to lead us out of the bondage of sin into the freedom of His children. In the memorial entrusted to us by Christ, we celebrate the covenant with God made whole again. And we do so with the new Lamb of God, Jesus handed over in a self-emptying sacrifice for our redemption. We can add nothing to the divine act of love; we have only to open ourselves to accept the salvation offered us.
This is the day of the Eucharist, the covenantal meal where the sacrifice of Christ’s body and blood become our food and drink in a communion of love with and thanksgiving to God. Jesus instituted this sacrifice of thanksgiving, to be offered again and again up to the end of time, to nourish us spiritually and empower us for our own Passover to eternal life. But to claim already now intimacy with God in Jesus, Saint John points out that we must bend before each other and wash one another’s feet. To partake of the feast of our paschal fellowship with God through, with and in Jesus, means we are imitators of his self-emptying love who with absolute regard touched the bodies even of sinners,
washing, healing, soothing.
Alálaong bagá, the unconditional love of God for us in Jesus, proclaimed in our Paschal Triduum celebration, invites us to walk the death and resurrection with Jesus, who washes our feet and hands and hearts in service and love of sinful humanity even unto death. God’s awesome graciousness to us, instituted as a sacrament and made present in the Eucharist, impels us to pass over from being served into serving others, into a new life of self-emptying service of others, thus becoming channels of God’s saving gifts to all.
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