Thursday, April 5, 2012

Blog # 237 Holy Thursday is about Good Friday

Blog # 237 Holy Thursday is about Good Friday Hung in a cluster on one of the walls here in my house I have, among thirty four Bible texts, eight crucifixes of various sizes, and a single plaque depicting Jesus and the Apostles at the Last Supper. I created it as an expression of the importance I see theologically for us to have an awareness of the absolute connection between the event of what we celebrate each year on Holy Thursday and that of the following day on Good Friday. Since we have begun to celebrate these events in the evenings rather than in the mornings many more people in our parishes have the opportunity of being present for them after their day of work. I think the predominant flavor or goal of Holy Thursday has been the fellowship and love for one another we should have as Christians as we gather at the table to eat together in joyful recognition of the presence and value of the love we share in Jesus and then, in response to the washing of the feet ,the humility and service role of Jesus reflected in the actions of the celebrant with an invitation that we should follow His example. The celebration of Good Friday seemed to emphasize and elicit our sympathy for Jesus and repentance for our sins in light of the pain and suffering He willingly and generously endured to atone for our sins. This is all good, true, and a source of spiritual blessings, but I feel there may also be a danger of being unaware of the essential theological relationship that exists between these two days of Holy Week. However without an awareness and appreciation of the theological relationship between the two events of the Last Supper and the Crucifixion we would be missing the full meaning purpose and value of both of them. For both Jesus and the Apostles on the evening of the night before He died, the event they were commemorating and celebrating was the liberation of the Chosen People from the slavery of Pharaoh in Egypt with Moses identified as the instrument of God in guiding His people to freedom. At God's command the Feast was celebrated annually. Great details were given in the choice of the animal to be sacrificed in preparation for the meal and in various details of a ritual to be followed at the meal itself. Christians today and as far back as I can remember are accustomed to refer to the ceremonies of Holy Thursday as the "Last Supper" of our Lord. However the Gospels of Matthew Mark and Luke very significantly refer to it as "the Passover". The "Passover Supper" or Exodus from Egypt was always identified with a twofold liberation, first the historical escape from the slavery of Egypt under the leadership of Moses and secondly the spiritual liberation from the slavery of sin awaited in hope to be led by the promised Messiah who was to come. Even in the historical moment when Jesus walked among them the Apostles had difficulty at times understanding and applying the full teachings He shared about Himself and His ministry. It was by the Holy Spirit Whom Jesus promised would come upon them they and the Church would be enabled to receive, understand,and apply the meaning and share the power of His life death and Resurrection until the end of time. The Gospel writers however did clearly understand and indicate to us their awareness of the meal we have come to refer to as the Last Supper was actually seen as their celebration with Jesus the celebration of the liberating meal of Passover. (cf. Mat 26: 17 - 19; Mark 14: 1, 12, 16; Luke 22: 7,8. It might be a good introduction to Blog # 238 coming up tomorrow to conclude this one with this insight: What was going on for Jesus, for us, and for the world on Calvary was going on at the Passover supper Jesus celebrated with the Apostles the evening before, but in a different mode.

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