Commentaries on Holy Week | Holy Thursday
The Holy Thursday liturgy is very rich in content. It is the great day when the Holy Eucharist was instituted, a gift of heaven for mankind. It is also the day of the institution of the priesthood, a new divine gift that assures the real and effective presence of the Sacrifice of Calvary in all times and places, enabling us to receive its fruits.
HE HIMSELF REMAINS
The moment when Jesus was to offer his life for mankind was approaching. So great was his love that, in his infinite wisdom, he found a way of going and remaining at the same time. St. Josemaría, reflecting on people who are obliged to leave their home and family to earn their living elsewhere, notes that human love makes use of a symbol. Those who are parting exchange a remembrance, perhaps a photograph. Jesus, perfect God and perfect man, does not leave a symbol, but the reality. He himself remains. He goes to the Father, but he remains with us men. He is there, under the species of bread and wine, really present, with his Body, his Blood, his Soul and his Divinity.
How do we correspond to his immense love? By attending Holy Mass, the living and true memorial of the Sacrifice of Calvary, with faith and devotion. By preparing ourselves very well to receive Communion, with our soul well cleansed. By frequently visiting Jesus hidden in the tabernacle.
The first reading from today’s Mass (Ex 12:1-8,11-14) recalls what God stipulated for the people of Israel, so they would not forget the gifts they had received. It goes into great detail, from how the paschal lamb should be prepared, to small observances to help recall the passage of the Lord. If this was prescribed to commemorate events that were only an image of the liberation from sin worked by Jesus, how should we behave now, when we have truly been rescued from the slavery of sin and made children of God.
TO RECEIVE HIM
This is why the Church insists on great care in all that refers to the Eucharist. Do we take part in the Holy Sacrifice every Sunday and on Holy Days of Obligation with the realization that we are participating in a divine action?
St. John relates that Jesus washed the feet of his disciples before the Last Supper. One has to be clean in soul and body to receive Him worthily. That is why He left us the sacrament of Penance.
We also commemorate the institution of the priesthood. Let us ask, with full sincerity, what St. Josemaría Escrivá used to pray: Lord, put into my heart the love with which you want me to love you.
In today’s scene, our Lady is not physically present, although she was in Jerusalem during those days. We will find her tomorrow at the foot of the Cross. But today, with her discreet and silent presence, she accompanies her Son very closely, in a deep union of prayer, sacrifice and dedication. John Paul II writes that, after our Lord’s ascension into heaven, she took part intensely in the Eucharistic celebration of the early Christians: “The body given up for us and made present under sacramental signs was the same body which she had conceived in her womb! For Mary, receiving the Eucharist must have somehow meant welcoming once more into her womb that heart which had beat in unison with hers” (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 56).
Now as well Mary keeps Jesus company in all the world’s tabernacles. We ask her to teach us to be Eucharistic souls, men and women of sure faith and upright piety, who strive never to leave Jesus alone. May we learn how to adore Him, to ask for his forgiveness, to thank Him for his gifts, to keep Him company.
Commentaries on Holy Week were originally broadcast by the EWTN Radio Network (April 4-11, 2004). Reprinted here with permission.
Most Rev. Javier Echevarria was the second successor of St. Josemaria Escriva as head of Opus Dei from 1994-2016. He worked closely with St. Josemaria Escriva as his personal secretary from 1953 until St. Josemaria’s death in 1975. Bishop Echevarria was ordained as a priest on August 7, 1955. He was elected and appointed by John Paul II as prelate of Opus Dei on April 20, 1994. The Pope ordained him as a bishop on January 6, 1995. Bishop Echevarria died in Rome on December 12, 2016.