Maundy Thursday – The Institution of the most Holy Eucharist

Maundy Thursday – The Institution of the most Holy Eucharist

On this night Jesus enjoys a final meal with his disciples. But unlike any meal before this, Jesus does something extraordinary. Matthew’s Gospel tells us: “Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, “Take and eat; this is my body.” And he took a chalice, and when he had given thanks ha gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins”. (Matt 26:26-29)

This happened during the ritual meal of the Passover, the deliverance of Israel from slavery. Yet, after the escape from Egypt, humanity remained bound to the slavery of sin. But Jesus doesn’t wish us to be slaves or servants. He wants to break our bonds and call us into the freedom of love that is his friendship. On the Cross he shows us the absolute depths of that love and mercy. In the Eucharist, “Jesus anticipates and makes present the sacrifice of the Cross and the victory of the resurrection”.1 In this miraculous gift, Jesus fulfils his promise given at his Ascension, “and behold, I am with you always, to the close of the age.” (Matt 28:20) In his sacred Body and Blood, Jesus gives his very self as our spiritual food, gives himself for the life of the world.
As Jesus prepares for the long and brutal journey towards death on Calvary, he leaves us this sign of his self-giving love. In washing his disciples feet, Jesus shows us that this love is always in the humble service of others. We are to imitate his self-giving. As brothers and sisters united in the one body, the Church and sharing in the one body, the Eucharist, Jesus calls us to love one another as he loved us, even unto death.

1. Pope Benedict XVI, Sacramentum Caritatis, Page 14.

David Barrins OP

fr. David Barrins is a son of the Irish Province who studied for ordination at Blackfriars, Oxford.