(Exodus 12:1-8.11-14; I Corinthians 11:23-26; John 13:1-15)
The man telephoned the priest. He said he needed help. Then he told a pitiable story of being seduced by his mother as a boy and repeatedly victimized by men as an adult. The priest listened to the man at length but knew that his situation was beyond any help the priest could offer. Indeed, through consultation it became evident that the call was probably a ruse to inveigle the priest in sexual perversion. This abysmal situation – child abuse, sexual predation, and manipulation -- describes the vortex of sin from which God liberates humanity.
Israel’s liberation from bondage in Egypt, catalyzed by the dramatic event related in the reading from Exodus this evening, serves as a prototype for God’s liberation of humanity from sin. The blood of the lamb sprinkled on the doorposts of their houses saves the Israelites from the plague that forces the Egyptians to let them go free. Similarly the blood of Christ saves Christians by forgiving their sins as the reading from First Corinthians signals. But Christian liberation, of course, is by definition not a license to do what one wishes. Just as Jesus in the gospel, Christians are freed from sin in order to serve one another in love.
The Holy Thursday liturgy packs together the great themes of the Paschal mystery. These will be drawn out and meditated upon at length during the next three days. Friday, in the reading of the passion according to John, Christ is presented as the liberating Lamb of God. Saturday the story of human sin is delineated through a series of Old Testament readings. Then the victory is proclaimed with the gospel of the Easter Vigil service and all the readings of Sunday’s masses. We should note the seriousness of these liturgies. They are hardly meant to be sanctimonious acts. Rather, they re-create the events that have spared us of that vortex of sin.