The Path of Life

The Path of Life

Friday, April 18, 2014

An invitation to the feast

"Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof,
but only say the word and I shall be healed."

A few thoughts as we keep vigil outside the tomb for the glorious dawn of Resurrection. …

As I have read and pondered the Passion narratives and Gospel texts this Holy Week, one sentence uttered by Jesus has struck me in particular fashion:

My appointed time draws near; in your house I shall celebrate the Passover with my disciples” (Matthew 26:18, with Jesus instructing his disciples about what to say to the owner of the building in which they will prepare the Passover meal).
This is an invitation by Jesus not only to his disciples 2,000 years ago, but to each one of us today. He personally calls each of us to the messianic banquet of heaven, the perpetual feast which he instituted on earth, and which we celebrate here and now with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. Our paschal lamb, Christ, has been sacrificed (1 Corinthians 5:7-8). As the Book of Revelation concludes near the end of the Bible: “Blessed are those who have been called to the wedding feast of the lamb” (Revelation 19:9).

This is a great mystery, the likes of which cannot be entered into without humility and awareness of our fallen but redeemed human nature. By God’s grace, the ancient Israelites were delivered from slavery in Egypt as the hand of death “passed over” the homes of those whose doorposts were smeared with the blood of a sacrificed lamb (cf. Exodus 12). This, as God himself decreed, became the annual Jewish feast of Passover, a memorial of thanksgiving and praise for divine deliverance from all that slavery represents (evil, darkness, and death), as well as petition for future salvation.

In the Christian tradition, Jesus, “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29) fulfills what Passover prefigured. His passion, death, and resurrection took place in Jerusalem during the feasts of Passover and Unleavened Bread. His blood shed on the cross--like that of the first Passover lamb--delivers us from the slavery of sin and leads us to goodness, light, and life. For this reason, at the Last Supper, “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 1340).

This is why, as Catholics, we celebrate the Eucharist. For “on the night he was handed over, [Jesus] took bread, and, after he had given thanks, broke it and said, ‘This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes” (1 Corinthians 11:23-26; cf. Matthew 26:26-29; Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:14-20).

In the final analysis, as one Body in Christ—the Lamb of God—we “pass over” from sin to redemption, from the darkness of the tomb on Holy Saturday to the light of Resurrection on Easter Sunday, from death to eternal life. Our participation in the Eucharist perpetuates the messianic banquet of heaven which Christ initiated on earth and which will be fully, finally, and forever realized in the life to come.

So, as the passage above from Matthew 26 illustrates, Jesus invites us as he did the first disciples:

My appointed time draws near; in your house I shall celebrate the Passover with my disciples.

Jesus wants to enter the house of your heart, each and every day of your life. He says to you the words he directed to the tax collector Zacchaeus in the sycamore tree: “I must stay at your house” (Luke 19:5). In fact, he insists: “I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, then I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me” (Revelation 3:20).

Like Zacchaeus, then, let us quickly receive Jesus with joy (Luke 19:6). Let us “come to the feast” (cf. Matthew 22:2-10; Luke 14:15-24). And as the Body of Christ, who gave himself up for us out of love, let us live in sincerity and truth—always keeping in mind that Jesus loves his own in the world and loves them to the end” (cf. John 13:1).

And let us become what we receive.

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