My Dear Fellow Believers! At the outset of the most sacred three days of the Paschal Triduum: Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday we come together, like those Catholics in Paris, because of what Our Blessed Lord Jesus Christ has done for us by his Passion, Death and Resurrection.
In the First Reading from the Book of Exodus we were given a glimpse of those final hours before the People of God were led out of Egyptian slavery. God invited them to turn their waiting for deliverance into a celebration of Passover. The consummation of the roasted lamb and the bitter herbs marked that night of God’s wonders and power, but it wasn’t just for that one night. God envisaged it as a yearly ceremony for his people: ‘This is to be a day of remembrance for you, and you must celebrate it as a feast in the Lord’s honour. For all generations you are to declare it a day of festival, for ever.’ That’s why every Jewish woman and man as they sit at the table to celebrate Passover can say: I am among those who left Egypt. As I pray and eat the Passover I experience the power of God’s mighty arm right now, right here.
Some fourteen centuries after that first Passover and the glorious Exodus there was a Passover celebration in Jerusalem of which both St Paul in our Second Reading from the Letter to the Corinthians and St John from the Gospel Reading wrote about. The Son of God, Jesus Christ, ‘knew that the hour had come for him to pass over from this world to the Father.’ This new pass over of the Son of Man was too in the midst of plagues like those which devastated Egypt, in fact the most deadly plagues of all: sins. This new pass over of the Son of Man was not passing by the sin controlled people and events but rather walking into the lion’s den, the sin’s den. Was Jesus out of his mind? St John gives us an explanation: ‘Jesus had always loved those who were his in the world, but now showed how perfect his love was.’ God who knelt and washed the dirty feet of his creatures gave them also a new meal made of bread: ‘This is my body, which is for you’ and wine: ‘This is the new covenant in my blood.’ Then he said: ‘Do this as a memorial of me.’
There were twelve men with Jesus there. As Jesus consecrated the bread and wine into his Body and Blood as he consecrated them into priests of the New Covenant. They were the first to consume Jesus’ Body and Blood, they were the first to embrace the transformation into what they consumed and they were also the first of the long tradition of bishops and priests to share this precious and life giving Eucharist with their sisters and brothers in faith. Tonight as we meditate on the mystery of the Eucharist and Priesthood pray my Sisters and Brothers for your bishops and priests. As they give the Eucharist to their communities may they also make of their lives a gift to their communities.
As I meditate on the life-giving Eucharist I wander what would happen on this coming Sunday if tonight your parish priest instead of giving you the Holy Communion would give each of you ten grand. I am pretty sure that on Sunday the queue to this church would stretch for miles. Is it because the pile of notes is seen as life-changing and life-giving? Though surrounded by such mentality we pray for a Christian mentality. Let’s listen again to the opening prayer for this Eucharist: ‘O God who have called us to participate in this most Sacred Supper.’ It is God himself who has called us to be here and he did so for a purpose: ‘that we may draw from so great a mystery the fullness of charity and of life.’
A couple of weeks ago there was an unusual ceremony in Assisi, the town of St Francis. The body of a fifteen year old boy who died of leukemia in 2006 was transferred from a cemetery to one of the churches there. The boy’s name was Carlo Acutis. Last year Pope Francis recognized that Carlo lived his life heroically as a Christian, thus he is called now Venerable. Rather a strange nickname for a teenager, isn’t it? As soon as a miracle attributed to him is confirmed he will be beatified and even canonized. This boy was rather determined about his lifestyle: ‘To always be close to Jesus, that’s my life plan.’ Why did he want to be close to Jesus? Was he dissatisfied with his life? Nothing of the sort. He loved life. He was passionate about computers, sport etc. He was popular among his friends. It was his funeral that revealed why he wanted to be close to Jesus. The church was filled not only with his relatives, friends, teachers and classmates. There were migrants, homeless, the poor, struggling families. They came because this boy, who came from rather a wealthy family, was spending the money he was given not on himself but on the people in need. On weekends he asked his mother to drive him around Milan to distribute his gifts to the needy. Carlo understood that he needed to be close to Jesus to act like Jesus. He drew strength from the Eucharist which he called: ‘My highway to heaven.’ He was at the Eucharist every day because as he simply put it: ‘The more Eucharist we receive, the more we become like Jesus.’ When informed of his advanced cancer he said: ‘I offer all the suffering I will have to suffer for the Lord, for the Pope and the Church.’
Venerable Carlo Acutis at such young age grasped the depth of wisdom of the great bishop St Augustin who some sixteen centuries earlier while distributing Holy Communion was saying to the people: ‘Receive what you are. Become what you receive.’