This Holy Thursday brings us the memory of that Last Supper of the Lord with the Apostles. As in previous years, Jesus will celebrate Easter surrounded by his own. But this time it will have very singular characteristics, because it will be the last Passover of the Lord before his passage to the Father and because of the events that will take place during it. All the moments of this Last Supper reflect the Majesty of Jesus, who knows that he will die the next day, and his great love and tenderness for men.
The Passover was the principal of the Jewish feasts and was instituted to commemorate the liberation of the Jewish people from Egyptian bondage. This day shall be memorable to you, and you shall solemnly celebrate it in honor of Yahweh from generation to generation. It shall be a feast in perpetuity. All Jews are obliged to celebrate this feast to keep alive the memory of their birth as the People of God.
Jesus entrusted the arrangement of what was necessary to his favorite disciples: Peter and John. The two Apostles carefully made the preparations. They took the lamb to the Temple and sacrificed it, then returned to roast it in the house where the supper was to take place. They also prepare the water for the ablutions2, the "bitter herbs" (representing the bitterness of slavery), the "unleavened bread" (in memory of those that their ancestors had to stop baking in the hasty departure from Egypt), the wine, etc. They took special care that everything was perfectly arranged.
These preparations remind us of the careful preparation that we have to make in ourselves every time we participate in the Holy Mass. The same Sacrifice of Christ, who gave himself for us, is renewed, and we are also his disciples, taking the place of Peter and John.
The Last Supper begins at sunset. Jesus recites the psalms with a firm voice and with a particular accent. St. John has transmitted to us that Jesus ardently desired to eat this supper with his disciples.
In those hours, singular things happened that the Gospels have left us: the rivalry among the Apostles, who began to discuss who would be the greatest; the surprising example of humility and service when Jesus performed the office reserved for the least of the servants: he began to wash their feet; Jesus poured out his love and tenderness towards his disciples: My little children..., he went so far as to tell them. "The Lord himself wanted to give to that meeting such a fullness of meaning, such a richness of memory, such a stirring of words and feelings, such a novelty of acts and precepts, that we will never finish meditating and exploring them. It is a testamentary supper; it is an affectionate and immensely sad supper, at the same time mysteriously revealing of divine promises, of supreme visions. Death comes upon them, with unheard-of omens of betrayal, of abandonment, of immolation; the conversation dies away at once, while the word of Jesus flows continuously, new, extremely sweet, tense in supreme confidences, hovering thus between life and death".
What Christ did for his own can be summed up in these brief words of St. John: he loved them to the end. Today is a particularly appropriate day to meditate on this love of Jesus for each one of us, and on how we are responding: in our assiduous dealings with him, in our love for the Church, in our acts of atonement and reparation, in our charity towards others, in our preparation and thanksgiving for Holy Communion, in our eagerness to co-redeem with him, in our hunger and thirst for justice....