(full reading: Mark 14.1 - 15.47)
(Adults, the VERY abbreviated reading is for the 3-6 year old. The full reading is for your reference only.)
This Sunday marks the beginning of Holy Week. It is the most holy week of the whole church year. The Church takes a whole week to think in a particular way about the events of Jesus' dying and rising to new life. Some people--adults, mostly--like to look at one event at a time. They spend a long time, sometimes even a whole day, on each event. But you and I know, that it is even more special to gaze at the whole mystery, the whole treasure, all at once. We can do that in this way:
On the first day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover lamb is sacrificed, Jesus’ disciples said to him, ‘Where do you want us to go and make the preparations for you to eat the Passover?’
The Passover meal is the most holy meal for the Jewish people. Families and friends celebrate this meal together in their homes every single year. Jesus, too, would celebrate the Passover with his family while growing up in Nazareth, and then as an adult travelling with his disciples.
So Jesus sent two of his disciples, saying to them, ‘Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you; follow him, and wherever he enters, say to the owner of the house, “The Teacher asks, Where is my guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?” He will show you a large room upstairs, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there.’ So the disciples set out and went to the city, and found everything as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover meal.
Every year for over three THOUSAND years, the Jewish people prepare the Passover meal. Every year for over three THOUSAND years, the Jewish people celebrate the Passover meal in exactly the same way. They eat the same foods, they say the same prayers, they ask the same questions, they sing the same hymns--every single year.
the last time that Jesus celebrates the Passover with his friends in Jerusalem,
he does something new.
Jesus says words that have never been spoken before.
When it was evening, Jesus came with the twelve...While they were eating, he took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to them, and said, ‘Take; this is my body.’ Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, and all of them drank from it. He said to them, ‘This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.
"This is my body...this is my blood..." Are those words new? We have heard these words before, haven't we? We have heard them, but the disciples hear them for the very first time when Jesus shares the Passover meal with them. Where have we heard these words before?
Jesus takes the bread, blesses it, breaks it, and gives it to his friends. He says that the bread is his body. Jesus is giving them his whole self.
In the bread.
Jesus takes the wine and thanks God for it, then he gives it to his friends. He says that the wine is his blood. Can you live without your blood? Of course not. So, Jesus is giving them his life.
In the wine.
Jesus gives everything he has--his body and his life--in the bread and the wine. What a gift! He says,
I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. (John 10:11)
He gives his life for the sheep.
He gives his life for the disciples.
I wonder if he gives his life for anyone else, too?
Jesus gives his life BEFORE the soldiers come to take it away. How can they take away something he has already given? That just doesn't make sense.
No wonder death can not hold him!
He gives his whole life as gift, and God fills Jesus with new life, abundant life, Risen life. Jesus can never die again!
This is good news. Actually, it is the best news ever.
It is something for us to remember during this most Holy Week when adults talk about the death of Jesus and forget to say, "and he is risen to new life, never to die again!"
Because we know, don't we?
We know Jesus is Risen.
Remember, we have heard these words of Jesus ourselves.
This is my body.
This is my blood.
We hear them every time we gather at Mass. I wonder if these words are meant for us, too?
The Good Shepherd wants to be with his sheep always.
This is the whole treasure of Holy Week.
Best. News. Ever.