Yesterday we celebrated Good Friday; the Passion of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Jesus’ human body is in the tomb, and we know that we can wait now for the Resurrection.
Over the past 2 days we watched Jesus do exactly what he came to earth to do. He fulfilled all of the Old Testament prophecies which told that an Anointed One (Messiah in Hebrew or Christos in Greek) would come as a Savior, and that he would save all people from the bondage of their sins. Jesus did exactly this, and he did it within the context of the Passover, recalling the time when God delivered the Hebrew people from the bondage of slavery in Egypt. Jesus, the New Moses, fulfilled the prophecies. As he celebrated the Passover meal with his disciples, he initiated the Eucharist, celebrated the first Mass, and commissioned his disciples as the first priests to continue celebrating Mass and giving the faithful the Eucharist. All of Salvation History, every word of Sacred Scripture, God’s entire plan of Salvation culminated in the events we’ve celebrated this week. This is why Holy Week is so Holy! And even in the midst of this crazy Pandemic, this excites me in a way that I can only try to express! It is the foundation of our faith. And our faith is what sustains us in all circumstances.
Let’s revisit this week as we prepare for what happens next.
One Thousand Years Before Jesus Was Born, God instructed the Hebrew people to rid their homes of leaven (yeast) for one full week. They were to eat only unleavened bread because yeast symbolized sin. They were to remove all sin from their lives. The Passover was initiated with the week of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. One Thousand Years later, Jesus celebrated the Passover meal with his disciples, and using that Unleavened Bread, he initiated the Eucharist. Jesus used the Cup of Wine dedicated to Redemption to be transformed into his Precious Blood.
One Thousand Years Before Jesus Was Born, God instructed the Hebrew people, slaves in Egypt, to procure an unblemished male lamb, and tie it up outside their house for 5 days. Jesus, the Lamb of God Who Takes Away The Sin Of The World, entered Jerusalem, and was ‘Chosen’ by the Jewish people on that day one thousand years later.
One Thousand Years before Jesus was born, God instructed the Hebrew people to slaughter their Passover Lamb on a certain day of that week, and to sprinkle the blood on the doorposts and lintel of their homes. Then God Passed Over, and kept the Hebrews safe when He slew the first-born in each Egyptian household, including the first-born son of Pharaoh. One thousand years later, Jesus, the Lamb of God, shed his blood to save us from the bondage of our sins, and from eternal death. He accomplished this divine vocation at the same time that the Passover Lambs were being slaughtered in the Temple in Jerusalem.
On the day Jesus hung on the cross, one Passover Lamb was slain at 3:00 PM in the Temple. This Passover Lamb was slain to atone for the communal sins of the people. Over one hundred thousand Jews in the city would have fallen silent at that moment when the shofar (ram’s horn trumpet) blew from the pinnacle of the Temple to announce that this was the moment that the communal lamb that carried their sins was being slain. Three o’clock! At that exact moment, the voice of The Lamb of God on a cross just outside the city gate proclaimed, “It Is Finished”, and gave up his spirit to God.
The week before Jesus died on the cross, he proclaimed that “Unless a grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains just a grain. But if it falls to the earth and dies, it will bear much fruit.” (John 12:24) One scholar that I have studied with said that “Jesus wasn’t buried. Jesus was planted !” Here we are, two thousand years later, still celebrating Jesus’ Messianic Mission. We celebrate what Jesus did, and we live His message. We, and all faithful Christians, are the fruit that Jesus bore.
One Thousand Years before Jesus was born, God initiated the Feast of First Fruits. This took place in the springtime, at the beginning of the barley harvest. The first tiny kernels of barley were taken from the vines, and burned up as an offering to God. They gave those First Fruits of the harvest to God, and they trusted God for the rest of the harvest to be abundant. One Thousand Years later, Jesus rose from the Dead on the Feast of First Fruits. As St. Paul tells us in Scared Scripture, “Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.” (1 Cor 15:30).
I hope you find this as amazing as I do! Jesus came into Jerusalem on Lamb Selection Day. He initiated the Eucharist during the Feast of Unleavened Bread, at a Passover meal. He was slain with the Passover Lamb. He was ‘planted’ in a new tomb. And He was raised on the Feast of First Fruits. Only the God of the Universe could tie together the events from one thousand years before with the actions of His Only Begotten Son one thousand years later.
The Hebrew people entered into those Passover events, and re-presented the events to God each year for a thousand years as they celebrated the Passover. Then Jesus entered into and fulfilled the events of that first Passover in Egypt, and initiated the New Passover…. The Mass. When we attend Mass, we enter into the reality of the Last Supper, The Crucifixion and the Resurrection, as those events are re-presented to God.
All of this was planned from the beginning of time! And all of it was given to us. As Catholics, we belong to the One, True Church founded by Jesus through all of these events.
As the words to a popular song tell us….”We Remember! We Celebrate! We Believe!” (From the song We Remember by Marty Haugen)
Even during these times when we cannot celebrate Mass together, we can use the time to read, pray, and learn more about our Catholic Faith, about the Mass, and about the Eucharist. Let’s use this time to do just that!
FORMED.org offers many wonderful bible studies, audio books, e-books, movies, and programs to help enhance our understanding of our Catholic Faith. They edify and entertain. Go to FORMED.org, and enter our parish code N68CY3 to access the very best Catholic content all in one place. This subscription to FORMED.org is a wonderful gift given to all of our parishioners from the parish. During these days when we are experiencing our Catholic Faith from home, it’s more important than ever. Please check out all of the great programs that FORMED.org has provided for this Holy Week and Easter.
May Christ be in your hearts and in your home during this Blessed Weekend.
Remember….Tonight we celebrate the Great Easter Vigil Mass. This Mass is a continuation of the Holy Thursday Mass that didn’t end. Holy Thursday’s Mass ended with “Watch and Pray” with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, and continued with prayer services venerating the Cross and praying through the day of Jesus’ Passion and Death. Tonight’s Mass begins like no other Mass throughout the year…. In darkness, with fire. As the Mass unfolds, we celebrate Jesus’ Resurrection for the first time this Easter weekend. All of this is explained in videos available on FORMED.org. This is the Holy Triduum.
Check out our parish website and blog for reflections at www.jp2parish.org/blog.
In the Peace of Christ,