(Exodus 12:1-8.11-14; I Corinthians 11:23-26; John 13:1-15)
All three readings this evening refer to a symbolic meal which people eat to this very day. The first reading indicates the origin of this meal. As the nation of Israel is about to flee Egypt, God mandates the people to sacrifice a lamb and to eat its meat. Furthermore, they are to spread the lamb’s blood on their doorposts to save them from the punishment He will inflict on sinful Egypt. The lamb symbolizes the very lives of the people offered to God, and its blood represents their obedience to His commands.
In the second reading St. Paul recalls how Christ, a faithful Jew, celebrated the meal but appropriated its meaning to himself. This had to be done because the people of Israel could not live in obedience to God’s law. Jesus, who was obedient to the Father’s command from day one, is declaring himself the lamb sacrificed to God. His blood, shed on cross of sacrifice, will save the people from the death caused by their sins. Furthermore, followers of Jesus are to recall their deliverance from sin and death in a simple meal of bread and wine. In the bread they will eat of Christ’s body, the Lamb of God. In the wine they will drink of his blood shed for the forgiveness of their sins.
The gospel passage sheds light on the meaning of the symbolic meal. Christ’s offering of himself as the Lamb of God is a service of love for his followers as demonstrated by his washing their feet. Being cleansed from their sins by his blood, they will imitate his love with similar works of service. They are to perform daily such works of love for one another. These works are as easy as a friendly greeting and as difficult as taking time to visit the sick when we are busy.