Holy Thursday

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Holy Thursday
Liturgy of the Last Supper of the Lord.
Memorial of Mary of Clopas who stood near the cross of the Lord with the other women. Prayer for all women in every part of the world who follow the Lord in difficulties and with courage. We remember Dietrich Bonhoeffer who was killed by the Nazis in the concentration camp of Flossenbürg in 1945.

First Reading

Exodus 12,1-8.11-14

Yahweh said to Moses and Aaron in Egypt, 'This month must be the first of all the months for you, the first month of your year. Speak to the whole community of Israel and say, "On the tenth day of this month each man must take an animal from the flock for his family: one animal for each household. If the household is too small for the animal, he must join with his neighbour nearest to his house, depending on the number of persons. When you choose the animal, you will take into account what each can eat. It must be an animal without blemish, a male one year old; you may choose it either from the sheep or from the goats. You must keep it till the fourteenth day of the month when the whole assembly of the community of Israel will slaughter it at twilight. Some of the blood must then be taken and put on both door-posts and the lintel of the houses where it is eaten. That night, the flesh must be eaten, roasted over the fire; it must be eaten with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. This is how you must eat it: with a belt round your waist, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand. You must eat it hurriedly: it is a Passover in Yahweh's honour. That night, I shall go through Egypt and strike down all the first-born in Egypt, man and beast alike, and shall execute justice on all the gods of Egypt, I, Yahweh! The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are. When I see the blood I shall pass over you, and you will escape the destructive plague when I strike Egypt. This day must be commemorated by you, and you must keep it as a feast in Yahweh's honour. You must keep it as a feast-day for all generations; this is a decree for all time.


Psalm 115


Trust in the Lord all ye who are afraid.

I trusted, even when I said :
'I am sorely afflicted,'

and when I said in my alarm :
'No man can be trusted'.

Now can I repay the Lord
for his goodness to me?

'The cup of salvation I will raise;
I will call on the Lord's name.

My vows to the Lord I will fulfil
before all his people.

O precious in the eyes of the Lord
is the death of his faithful.

Your servant, Lord, your servant am I;
you have loosened my bonds

A thanksgiving sacrifice I make :
I will call on the lord's name.

My vows to the Lord I will fulfil
before all his people,

in the courts of the house of the Lord,
in the midst, O Jerusalem.

Second Reading

1 Corinthians 11,23-26

For the tradition I received from the Lord and also handed on to you is that on the night he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took some bread, and after he had given thanks, he broke it, and he said, 'This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.' And in the same way, with the cup after supper, saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Whenever you drink it, do this as a memorial of me.' Whenever you eat this bread, then, and drink this cup, you are proclaiming the Lord's death until he comes.

Reading of the Gospel

Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

I am the good shepherd,
my sheep listen to my voice,
and they become
one flock and one fold.

Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

John 13,1-15

Before the festival of the Passover, Jesus, knowing that his hour had come to pass from this world to the Father, having loved those who were his in the world, loved them to the end. They were at supper, and the devil had already put it into the mind of Judas Iscariot son of Simon, to betray him. Jesus knew that the Father had put everything into his hands, and that he had come from God and was returning to God, and he got up from table, removed his outer garments and, taking a towel, wrapped it round his waist; he then poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the towel he was wearing. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, 'Lord, are you going to wash my feet?' Jesus answered, 'At the moment you do not know what I am doing, but later you will understand.' 'Never!' said Peter. 'You shall never wash my feet.' Jesus replied, 'If I do not wash you, you can have no share with me.' Simon Peter said, 'Well then, Lord, not only my feet, but my hands and my head as well!' Jesus said, 'No one who has had a bath needs washing, such a person is clean all over. You too are clean, though not all of you are.' He knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said, 'though not all of you are'. When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments again he went back to the table. 'Do you understand', he said, 'what I have done to you? You call me Master and Lord, and rightly; so I am. If I, then, the Lord and Master, have washed your feet, you must wash each other's feet. I have given you an example so that you may copy what I have done to you.


Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

I give you a new commandment,
that you love one another.

Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory


Today the Church remembers the Last Supper of Jesus with his disciples. As soon as they sit at the table Jesus said to them, "I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before my Passion." Jesus felt the need to be with his friends. He wanted to tell them how much he loved them and the mission to change the world that the Father had given him. He entrusted them with two sacraments, two great signs: the sacrament of the bread and wine and the sacrament of the washing of the feet. In the liturgy of Holy Thursday we repeat, to the letter, what Jesus did that Thursday night. We need to repeat those actions to better understand them and then transmit them to all.
In the letter to the Corinthians the apostle Paul tells the institution of the Eucharist: after sitting at the table with the Twelve, Jesus took the bread, and gave it to them, saying: "This is my body, which is given for you." He did the same with the cup of wine, "This is my blood, which is poured out for you." These are the same words that are repeated in each holy liturgy. That bread is not merely a bread, is it is a broken bread, it is Jesus himself who is broken so that no one may be without food. Jesus broke his body to give himself to all and poured all his blood without keeping even a drop for himself. In the consecrated bread and wine, Jesus is present as a body that is "given" and blood that is "poured." Jesus asked his disciples to nourish themselves with them and added: "Do this in memory of me." The Church is a people who, following the example of the Teacher, must be broken for love of others and pour their blood so that the Gospel is communicated to all.
The Gospel of John tells of the other sign that Jesus performed during the last supper, after the institution of the Eucharist. At a certain point, Jesus got up from the table and washed his disciples' feet. Jesus, "the teacher and Lord" became a servant and made the disciples lords. It is the last great lesson from Jesus alive: "You also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you." The washing of the feet that takes place during the Holy Liturgy this evening is only a sign, an indication of the way we should follow: we should wash one another's feet. Holy Thursday teaches us how to live and where to start living: life according to the Gospel means bending down in front of our brothers and sisters, beginning with the weakest. It is a path that comes from heaven, and yet at the same time it is the most human path we could want.