John 13: 1-15 Cycle B
Tonight is our Passover Feast. Christ is the new Passover. He is the new Moses, the new covenant. He is the lamb who sacrifices himself.
Jesus, an observant Jew, knows this. He knows who he is; that he is the Messiah, the fulfillment of God’s plan. He is the one who Moses prefigured. Jesus is fully aware of what he is about to do. He knows that the Passover is not complete until the Jews eat the lamb. His disciples must eat the flesh of the lamb, but tonight it will be his own flesh, and his own blood. He offers bread and wine, changing them into his body and blood, giving his disciples and us a share in his body and blood, soul and divinity. He says, “This is the new covenant in my blood.”
On this night Jesus is concerned not for himself but for his disciples and for those they will gather into his Church down through the ages. So, he institutes the priesthood that brings us his body and blood.
When we eat the body and blood of Christ we are reconciled to God. Our sins are washed away. The angel of death passes over. This came home to me in a striking way when I visited the 3rd & 4th grade CCD class recently. Catechists Joanne Belcher and Joyce Cothran were leading the children through a simulated Seder meal or Passover. At one point, they took the children out into the corridor and had them paint, one by one, with simulated blood, the door post of the classroom door. This taught them the moment recorded in scripture that we heard tonight in Exodus when the angel of death passed over the house it saw splattered with the blood of the lamb. Scott Hahn in his new book, The Fourth Cup about the Passover calls this a substitutionary sacrifice by which their sins had been forgiven. The Lord told Moses and Aaron that this “memorial feast” would serve for generations as “a perpetual institution.”
As I watched the children paint the doorpost, each in his turn, it hit me: this is the blood of Christ, the blood of the Eucharist, the blood of the Lamb who takes away the sins of the world, our sins. The lamb is slain in a substitutionary way. The lamb slain is a substitute for us, as it was for the Jews, who might well deserve death for their sins-as might we. Therefore, we say tonight, is the Passover of the Lord, and our Passover. Christ is our Passover Lamb, his continuing presence in his flesh and blood. The sacrifice of his blood, the slain lamb, we venerate tomorrow.
Tonight, Christ also institutes the ministerial priesthood which continues to bring us his body and blood. Christ also washes his disciples’ feet and instructs them to do likewise for others. The washing of the feet refers, some say, to the confession of sins, when we acknowledge our transgressions against each other. Finally, in the holy oils, we acknowledge Christ’s healing, strengthening and consecrating presence among us.
Tonight, is one of great consolation for us. We eat the Passover lamb. Death is no more. Eternal life is ours. By his wounds we are healed.