Saint John Paul II homily from March 31, 1988- copied from THE TEACHING OF POPE JOHN PAUL II ON CD-ROM 1998 Harmony Media.

 

Christ has left us His saving power in the Eucharist

            The Holy Father preached the following homily during the Mass of the Lord's Supper which he celebrated in the evening of Holy Thursday, 31 March, in the Basilica of St. John Lateran.

            1. "You shall never wash my feet" ( Jn 13:8).

            Thus says Simon Peter in the Upper Room, where Christ decided to wash the feet of his Apostles before the Last Supper.

            Christ knew that "his hour had come" (Jn 13:1), his Pasch.

            However, Simon Peter was not yet aware of it. Near Caesarea Philippi he was the first to confess: "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Mt 16:16). He was not yet aware that in this definition of the "Christ-Messiah," the meaning of "servant," the servant of Yahweh, was also included, He was not aware of it. In one sense, he did not wish to recognize the truth which, according to the Master's interpretation, was contained in "his hour," that is, "the hour to depart out of this world to the Father" (cf. Jn 13:1) He did not accept that Christ had to be a servant, just as the Prophet Isaiah had seen many centuries previously: the Servant of Yahweh, the suffering Servant of God.

 

            2. Yet by now the role of blood was definitively outlined in history; the blood of the paschal lamb had to find its accomplishment in Christ's Blood which sealed the New and Eternal Covenant.

            For those who got ready for the paschal supper in the Upper Room of Jerusalem the blood of the lamb was connected with the remembrance of the Exodus. It recalled the liberation from the slavery of Egypt, which gave rise to Yahweh's Covenant with Israel at the time of Moses.

            "They shall take some of the blood, and put it on the two door-posts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat them . . . It is the Lord's Passover . . . when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague shall fall on you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt" (Ex 12:7, 11, 13).

 

            The blood of the lamb was a threshold before which Yahweh's punitive anger was halted. Those who got ready for the paschal supper in the Cenacle remembered Israel's liberation through this blood.

            3. None of them, Simon Peter included, was fully aware that this liberation through the blood of the paschal lamb was at the same time an announcement. It was a "figure" which had its fulfillment in Christ.

            When the Apostles meet in the Upper Room for the Last Supper, this fulfillment is now near. Christ knows that "his hour had come," the hour in which he will bring the announcement to fulfillment and fully reveal the reality which for centuries had been signified by the "figure" of the paschal lamb: liberation through his Blood.

            Christ approaches the "fullness"; he enters into this reality. He knows what that night and the following have in store for him.

A new Covenant

            4. Now he takes the bread in his hands and, giving thanks, says: "This is my Body, which is for you" (1 Cor 11:24). At the end of the supper (as we read in the First Letter to the Corinthians) he takes the cup and says: "This cup is the new covenant in my blood" (1 Cor 11:25).

            When Christ's Body comes to be offered on the Cross, this Blood, poured out in the Passion, will become the beginning of God's new Covenant with humanity. The Old Covenant, in the blood of the paschal lamb, the blood of liberation from the slavery in Egypt. The New and Eternal Covenant, in Christ's Blood.

            Christ approaches the sacrifice which has redemptive power: the power to liberate humanity from the slavery of sin and death, the power to snatch humanity from the abyss of spiritual death and from condemnation.

            Jesus gives the cup of salvation, the blood of the New Covenant, to his disciples, and says: "Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me"

(1 Cor 11:25).

            5. "Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end"

(Jn 13:1). Here is the most profound truth of the Last Supper. The Body and Blood, the passion and death on the Cross, mean precisely this: "he loved them to the end."

            The lamb's blood on the lintel of the houses in Egypt did not have a liberating power in itself. The power came from God. For a long time people did not dare to refer to this power by name.

            Christ called it by name. The Body and Blood, the passion and death, the sacrifice: they are the love which reaches to the extent of his salvific power.

            Christ called it by name. Christ made it a reality. Christ has left us this power in the Eucharist. This is "his hour": he passes from the world to the Father by means of the blood of the New Covenant; he passes from the world to the Father by means of love, which reaches to the extent of his salvific power.

            6. He says: "Do this in memory of me". First he says: "I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you" (Jn 13:15). "That you love one another, even as I have loved you" (Jn 13:33).

            The Last Supper. The beginning of the New Covenant in Christ's Blood!

            Let us relive it with a heart full of faith and love!  (C)