April 1, 2021 Homily for the Mass of the Lord’s Supper

Homily Based mainly on texts from
the Ceremonial of Bishops and
the Catechism of the Catholic Church

With [today’s] Mass, celebrated in the evening of the Thursday in Holy Week, the Church begins the sacred Easter Triduum and devotes itself to the remembrance of the Last Supper. At this supper on the night he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus, loving those who were his own in the world even to the end, offered his body and blood to the Father under the appearances of bread and wine, gave them to the apostles to eat and drink, then enjoined the apostles and their successors in the priesthood to offer them in turn.

This Mass is, first of all, the memorial of the institution of the Eucharist, that is, of the memorial of the Lord’s Passover, by which under the sacramental signs he perpetuated among us the sacrifice of the New Law. The Mass of the Lord’s Supper is also the memorial of the institution of the priesthood, by which Christ’s mission and sacrifice are perpetuated in the world. In addition, this Mass is the memorial of that love by which the Lord loved us even to death (Ceremonial of Bishops, no. 297).

  • So, we have this three-part memorial of today’s Mass: first, the institution of the Holy Eucharist, second the institution of the ministerial Priesthood and third, Christ’s love for us. The readings for today’s Mass present and encompass this three-part memorial.
  • By celebrating the Last Supper with his apostles in the course of the Passover meal, [which the Lord instructed Moses on in today’s first reading,] Jesus gave the Jewish Passover its definitive meaning. Jesus’ passing over to his father by his death and Resurrection, the new Passover, is anticipated in the Supper and celebrated in the Eucharist, which fulfills the Jewish Passover and anticipates the final Passover of the Church in the glory of the kingdom (Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC, no. 1340).
  • And so, as today’s Gospel relates, the Lord, having loved those who were his own, loved them to the end. Knowing that the hour had come to leave this world and return to the Father, in the course of a meal he washed their feet and gave them the commandment of love. In order to leave them a pledge of this love, in order never to depart from his own and to make them sharers in his Passover, he instituted the Eucharist as the memorial of his death and Resurrection, and commanded his apostles, [as we see in today’s second reading,] to celebrate it until his return; “thereby he constituted them priests of the New Testament” (CCC, no. 1337).
  • And the “blessing-cup” we heard sung about so well in today’s responsorial psalm is, as the Scripture scholars tell us, the traditional name for the third ritual cup of wine consumed at the Jewish Passover meal. It is this cup that Jesus blessed and consecrated at the Passover of the Last Supper and made the eucharistic cup of the New Covenant.[1] When Jesus instituted the Eucharist, he gave a new and definitive meaning to the blessing of the bread and the cup (CCC, no. 1334).
  • Let’s take this a little deeper, but catechetically. The whole Church is a priestly people. Through Baptism all the faithful share in the [one] priesthood of Christ. This participation is called the “common priesthood of the faithful.” {The whole community of believers is, as such, priestly. The faithful exercise their baptismal priesthood through their participation, each according to his own vocation, in Christ’s mission as priest, prophet, and king. Through the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation the faithful are “consecrated to be … a holy priesthood.” (CCC, 1546)} Based on this common priesthood and ordered to its service, there exists another participation in the mission of Christ: the ministry conferred by the sacrament of Holy Orders, where the task is to serve in the name and in the person of Christ the Head in the midst of the community (CCC, no. 1591).
  • The ministerial or hierarchical priesthood of bishops and priests, and the common priesthood of all the faithful participate, “each in its own proper way, in the one priesthood of Christ.” While being “ordered one to another,” they differ essentially. In what sense? While the common priesthood of the faithful is exercised by the unfolding of baptismal grace—a life of faith, hope, and charity, a life according to the Spirit—, the ministerial priesthood is at the service of the common priesthood. It is directed at the unfolding of the baptismal grace of all Christians. The ministerial priesthood is a means by which Christ unceasingly builds up and leads his Church (CCC, no. 1547).
  • So, all of us who have been baptized, as members of the common priesthood, are called to prioritize the unfolding of our received gift of baptismal grace, i.e., we are called to a life lived according to the Spirit, a life of intense faith, hope and love. AND those ordained to the ministerial priesthood are called to a life of service of the common priesthood. The ministerial priesthood was instituted by Christ to be at the service of the unfolding of the baptismal grace of all Christians.
  • The pinnacle of the unfolding of baptismal grace is heroic faith, hope and love; and especially to love God with all of one’s heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love one’s neighbor as Jesus has loved us. All of us are called to this, and the ministerial priesthood was instituted by Christ to help all people to reach this pinnacle, as well as to offer sacrifice and to lead the people in divine worship. A man receives the gift of the ministerial priesthood, not primarily for himself, but for others; to lead them to Christ!
  • Bringing us back to today’s Gospel passage, which says: If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.[2] As the scriptural theologians tell us, Jesus says with words what was already expressed in his deeds: we must pattern our lives after Jesus, whose actions show us how to love and honor our heavenly Father. Included in this is the willingness to serve others even to the point of death.[3]
  • Through our baptism into Christ and with God’s help, we are called to follow Jesus’ example of laying down our lives in love for, and service to, our neighbor out of our love for God. And to do this, I need God’s help. Furthermore, and here is one key point, what often makes all the difference in the way I live my life and approach the practice of my Catholic faith is the answer to this one question: do I know in my heart that I am loved by God? We’re not talking about just an intellectual knowledge of God’s love for me, but that I know in the depths of my being that Jesus loves me! Intellectual knowledge is a start, but it has to be something I come to know and embrace in my heart. If we look at the lives of the Saints, we often find this beautiful fact. While she isn’t a saint, and her cause has not yet been started, there is someone close to home that models this very phenomenon: Mother Angelica. When we analyze her life, we find that a substantial, noticeable and life-changing event occurred when Mother Angelica embraced in her heart that Jesus loved her.
  • Notice too, her great love for the Holy Eucharist and the ministerial Priesthood! Today, let us strive to love Jesus in the Eucharist, our neighbor as Jesus has loved us, and to pray for all priests.

— Fr. Dominic Mary


[1] The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible: The New Testament (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2010), 299.

[2] The Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version; Second Catholic Edition. (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2006), Jn 13:14–15.

[3] Curtis Mitch, “Introduction to the Gospels,” in The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible: The New Testament (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2010), 187.


One thought on “Fr. Dominic’s Holy Thursday Homily

  1. What a wonderful explanation of our share in the priesthood. No one can say that women are left out or thought of as second class citizens in our beloved Church. Thank you.

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