‘The amazing gift and mystery of the Eucharist’

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The following is the text of Bishop Rhoades’ homily at the Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday, April 14, 2022 at St. Matthew Cathedral:

At this Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper, we begin the Sacred Paschal Triduum, the celebration of the Passover of Jesus. In Latin, the word “Easter” is “Pascha” — Passover. Similarly, in Spanish, Easter is called “Pascua,” in Italian, “Pasqua,” and in French “Paques”: all meaning “Passover.” We are celebrating Jesus’ Passover from death to life, foreshadowed by the Old Testament Passover, which we heard about in our first reading from the book of Exodus. 

The Jewish feast of Passover commemorates the deliverance of God’s people from slavery in Egypt. The blood of the lamb marked the houses of the Israelites and the angel of death passed over those houses when God rescued His people. Notice that the lamb for the Passover had to be without blemish. In the New Passover, we also have a lamb without blemish: Jesus, the Lamb of God, who is without sin. He is the Paschal Lamb by whose blood we have been delivered from slavery, the slavery of sin, and have been saved from death. 

At the end of the Exodus reading, we heard God’s instruction to His people: “This day shall be a memorial feast for you, which all your generations shall celebrate with pilgrimage to the Lord, as a perpetual institution.” Even today, faithful Jews annually celebrate the Passover. And God has commanded us to celebrate a memorial feast of the New Passover as a perpetual institution: the Eucharist. As we heard in our second reading from St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians recounting the institution of the Eucharist, Jesus twice told the apostles, “Do this in remembrance of me.” First, after He says over the bread: “This is my body that is for you,” and then again, after He says over the cup: “This covenant is the new covenant in my blood.” The Eucharist is the memorial feast of the new Passover, in which Jesus “passes over” to the Father by His death and resurrection. 

Tonight we celebrate the institution of the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. At every celebration of Mass, we remember Jesus’ Passover. At the al