April 6, 2023
Holy Thursday – The Mass of the Last Supper takes place in darkness. It is a battle against evil and darkness.
- Tonight leads us back in history, to the oppression of the Israelites in Egypt, and the dark night of the Passover.
- Jesus, at the Last Supper, was celebrating the Passover in His great battle against darkness.
- In the Mass, we take part in this great battle.
- The Apocalypse reveals the ultimate stages of this battle.
- If we share the Lamb’s battle, we will share His Victory over darkness.
This is a computer-generated transcription that has been included to make the homily searchable. It has not been verified by the author.
There’s something unusual about this Mass, the time that this Mass is to be celebrated. It’s a Mass, which leads into darkness. We’ll have the opposite at our Easter vigil on Easter morning. But this Mass leads into darkness. And not just the darkness of a normal night, but into the darkness of a very dark night, the night of the agony of Jesus and His arrest. And so, it’s in this Mass, which is a Mass, which is preparing for the struggle with the darkness. And so, this Mass, every Mass, but especially this Mass, transports us back to that last supper that Jesus was celebrating. And the darkness that was already so heavy, as He was celebrating, that Mass, that last supper, which was the institution also of this sacrament. And that institution was also rooted in something that went even back much farther, the Passover, the Passover of the Exodus. And so today, I wanted to look briefly with you at these four stages, first Exodus, and then the last supper, and then us today, and then where all that is leading us. So, that only takes like two or three hours to do. So first, the Exodus. So, the Exodus, remember that the Passover that Jesus is celebrating is the memorial of Exodus in which the people of Israel who had been oppressed for so long were not just oppressed now, but they were being pressed into slavery, a heavy slavery, and not only slavery, but now even genocide. The attempt to destroy the people of God, to wipe out the people of God by killing all the male members. And so, we know that there’s this great battle going on, as the forces of darkness are trying to destroy God’s people. And so, after the whole, God gives Moses all those plagues. And then we had the reading from tonight – “tell all the congregation of Israel, that on the 10th day of this month, they”… (so as this is this passage of Exodus, there’s a there’s a powerful commentary in Scripture in the Book of Wisdom. And it speaks of the special darkness, like the supernatural darkness, of this night of Exodus, that’s very interesting, if you have a chance to go read that in the book of Wisdom ) “Tell all the congregation of Israel that on the 10th day of this month, they shall take, every man a lamb, according to their father’s house, a lamb for a household, and you shall keep it until the 14th day of this month, when the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill their lambs in the evening. Then they shall take some of the blood”… (so this is already a sense of the seriousness of this the sacrifice of the lamb and the blood) …”and put it on their doorposts and the lentil of the houses in which they eat them. They shall eat the flesh that night, roasted, with unleavened bread” – unleavened bread, “and bitter herbs, that they shall eat it.” So, sacrifice lamb with unleavened bread and bitter herbs, as the blood has been placed on a lentil. So, a sign, many signs that the seriousness and of the mystery of this great conflict, because this is a conflict. This is a conflict against all the forces which are trying to destroy the people of God, and God leading His people in this battle. But a mysterious way that this battle God doesn’t say to Moses, gather up to train the Israelites with swords and then go into battle with the Egyptians. This is a battle, but a battle and, one of the most extraordinary battles in all of history, that under this immense power of Egypt, that this people could be freed. I don’t know if there’s any other, there’s any liberator or warrior leader who has done something so tremendous, because this is hundreds of 1000s of people who will be freed that night. But the Lord needs to teach them how they are going to wage this battle. It’s not the way they would have thought. And that’s what He’s actually telling them – how this battle is going to be won. It doesn’t sound like battle instructions, but it is – they shall eat the flesh that night, with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. It is the Lord’s Passover, the Lord’s Passover, the Lord is going to do something – “for I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike.” So see, He’s not saying you all get up and do this. He said, do what I’ve just told you and I will act, I will be the one striking down your enemy. I will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast, and on the gods of Egypt, the gods of Egypt, which are the demons, the demons of Egypt, the idols of Egypt, the gods of Egypt, the demon, the demonic powers of Egypt, “I will execute judgment.” On this night, God is going to execute judgment, not just on the Egyptians, but on the demons that have been manipulating them. “I am the Lord and there is no other.” It doesn’t say, I am a Lord, “I am the Lord, the blood shall be assigned for you upon the house is where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you and no plague shall fall upon you, to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.” And that’s what’s different from this and just a human battle. They’re not using human weapons, they’re not the ones who are winning the victory, it’s God himself who was acting. “I will strike the land of Egypt.” And so, the Lord is showing that behind the unjust tyranny of pharaoh, there is a spiritual power. As St. Paul says, “we’re not just fighting against flesh and blood, but against the spirits of darkness.” There’s demonic spirits, the power of satan, who attacks them from without, with the oppression of the Egyptians, but who also, much more dangerous, they attacks them from within. And we’re gonna see that battle continuing even when they leave into the desert, how satan continues to tempt them with attacks from within. And so, the Lord tells that this is so important, that He says, “This day shall be for you a memorial day, and you shall keep it as a feast to the Lord, throughout your generations. You shall observe it as an ordinance forever.” So that’s what’s about to happen. This night is so important that He wants them to celebrate it forever, a memorial forever. And so that leads us to the last supper, because Jesus with His apostles is celebrating what the Lord wanted to be celebrated, forever, that solemn Paschal meal. But that time, there’s something that Jesus was showing that Passover of Exodus was actually a prefiguration, for what He was celebrating that night with His apostles. And so, think of the weight of that night, because that helps us to understand what the Mass is, because there’s been so many crazy ideas, and in recent decades, about what the Holy Eucharist is, and all sorts of things. But then it’s been, well, as the angel at Fatima said to the children, the outrages, sacrileges and indifference with which the Mass has been treated, and was being treated, which are attacks against the Lord Himself. The outrageous, sacrileges and indifference and how many outrages and sacrileges and indifference had been committed in our times against the Mass. And so, we need to go back to the origin of the Mass to discover what it really is, not how man distorts it. But what it really is, and where does it begin? Jesus could have instituted it whenever He wanted. But it’s right as He’s entering into His great battle against the spirits of darkness. Saint John emphasizes that in the gospel when he said at the end of the meal, it was dark, it was night. Jesus is going into that darkness, that terrible darkness, that He is going to experience in this agony. Already, even before the physical attacks, there’s much worse, the spirit, the spirit of evil, who is attacking Him. And so, He’s about to enter and so He knows all of that. All of that is very present to Him, very present, as He’s celebrating this meal. And so that’s what’s present, as He is instituting this sacrament that we’re celebrating right now. And He knows, one of them, one of the apostles will betray Him, that Peter will deny Him, most of them will scatter and abandoned Him, and so with all that weight and all that realization of human weakness and woundedness and sinfulness and what it’s going to cost Him and what it’s going to cost His friends, that He is celebrating this Eucharist. And so, He will be abandoned by almost all. And so, He is about to enter into this battle, almost alone, I say almost alone, because certainly His mother accompanied Him in spirit. But almost alone, He’s entering against all the forces of the enemy going, oh, yeah, we had David, we see David going into battle against Goliath, going in battle alone. But Jesus is even going into battle, a much more difficult battle, alone, basically. And so that is present when Jesus is instituting so that you and I, today, could celebrate this mystery, all that was in His heart. And so, every Mass, that’s why of course, we have the crucifix present at every Mass, because all of that is present. And so, Jesus, the lamb, now the true Lamb, not simply the Paschal lamb, but the true Lamb of God is going into this battle, this like trap that satan has prepared for so long, and now about to spring that trap on Jesus. But what satan doesn’t realize, is that this is actually this trap is actually a trap that Jesus Himself is springing on satan, by allowing Himself to enter into the sacrifice. Satan feels that he is winning, but he will soon realize that the victory is Jesus. Satan attacks Jesus through all the power of evil, and then but Jesus unleashes the power of his sacrifice. And so that’s important for us as we celebrate now, today, in 2023, with all that’s going on in our world, this is, in a sense, an act of rebellion against the spirit of the world, because the spirit of the world is always trying to destroy faith in Jesus, to destroy Jesus. And by coming here, to celebrate the Sacrament, we are rebelling against that tyranny of the world. So, St. John says, the whole world is in the power of the evil one. And we see so many signs of that in our world. It seems to be growing every day, the world and the power of the evil one. And so, this is the situation in which we come to celebrate Mass. And this very holy Eucharist that we’re celebrating tonight, as I mentioned, has been so attacked, satan attacks especially, the Holy Eucharist, attacking it many times from without. Even today, there are many places where Christians are not allowed to celebrate the sacrament. But the worst attacks are the attacks that come from within. Even sometimes from within the church, sometimes even without people realizing what they’re doing, but the attacks against the real faith in the Real Presence of Jesus, and faith in the fact, as I say, I speak about this often because it’s so, so lost today, faith in the fact that the Mass makes present the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. And why is that so important? Because it’s only faith in Jesus and in the sacrifice which is capable of destroying satan. That’s the lamb and the blood, which are the only ones capable of destroying the power of satan and liberating souls, from the power of satan. But to receive that power. It’s not enough that Jesus offered his sacrifice. It’s not enough even that he made the sacrament available. What else is needed for those graces to flow is our faith. No matter how powerful is His sacrifice, and no power, no matter how present is His sacrifice in the sacrament, if I don’t have faith, I don’t receive those graces. Not because He doesn’t want to, but because He respects my freedom. And so that’s why satan can’t destroy the sacrifice of Jesus. But he can attack our faith. And he’s done an extremely successful job of doing that. Most Catholics don’t know that the Mass is the Holy Sacrifice of Jesus. And it’s not blaming them, but it’s a sign of a crisis of faith in our Church. When Padre Pio, St. Padre Pio was asked what should be our attitude at Mass, he said it should be the attitude as if we were present at Calvary, because that’s what’s taking place in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. And the stigmata that Padre Pio had, as other saints have had, is that was a visible sign that the Lord has given us, of the priest, as acting in the person of Jesus, but also of us being called to share in the wounds, and in the sacrifice of Jesus in our own life. That we are sharing in this battle. That we also are in this great battle that Jesus led us to. And so sometimes in the Mass, the Lord can give us the experience great peace, and great joy for this Eucharistic presence. And those are gifts that we should be very grateful for. But many times, we may experience distractions. I’m sure you have never been distracted at Mass, have you? Especially when there’s a priest who goes on and on, distractions and all sorts of thoughts, temptations, or dryness, not feeling anything. We think, what’s wrong with me? But when we realize the Mass is a battle between the infinite love and mercy of God, and the spirit of darkness and hatred, then it’s normal, often, that the Lord is asking us to share in that battle. And so, the distractions, the temptations, the dryness, the doubts, that we can experience at Mass, instead of being disturbed by that, we can understand that the Lord is letting me share in this battle that He is experiencing, and that souls are experiencing throughout the earth. And He has given me the opportunity to help him and to help so many souls in this battle. So many souls who don’t know Jesus, don’t know the faith. Don’t know His love, His presence. And so don’t be discouraged if Mass is often difficult, and a battle. That’s not a bad sign and may be a sign that Jesus is asking you to be a true friend, a friend who is not just with Him when things feel good, but a friend who accompanies Him, when so many abandoned Him, because things are getting very difficult, and very hard and very heavy. In this Mass we will hear, “Behold, the Lamb of God”, not the Pascal animal, but the true Lamb of God, who was sacrificed. And now, where is this all leading us to? Because it’s a Passover. It doesn’t end in darkness. It’s a Passover, from darkness to light, from suffering and death to triumph in life. Scott Hahn points out the profound bond between the apocalypse, the book of Revelation, and the Holy Eucharist, and how much the Holy Eucharist that we’re celebrating, which is rooted and comes from that night, 2000 years ago, is also a sharing in what is revealed, the great mystery that is revealed in the apocalypse. Because the apocalypse shows this cosmic war between the forces of light and darkness, and that’s what we’re living, and we live it in the Mass. I was just talking to someone a couple of days ago, was talking to me about how painful the Mass was. And this was a person who had a lot of faith. And that can be the experience of many people. Because the Mass is this great cosmic war that we are sharing. And we’re in the middle of that war right now. And the apocalypse shows the dragon, the great red dragon, the beasts, the demonic spirits, the monsters, it even chose a mysterious image of a beast like a lamb. It says, John says, that “I saw another beast, which rose out of the earth, it had two horns like a lamb, and it spoke like a dragon.” So it looks like a lamb but it speaks like a dragon. He says, “it makes the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, the corruption of the authentic worship of the Lamb of God,” this false worship that is to confuse and contaminate the believers, the poison, the deceptions, the attacks of these spirits. And that’s what we’re living right now, right now. At one point, John, hears the martyr saying, crying out with a loud voice, “Oh, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long? How long? Oh, Lord, how long Oh, Lord, before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell upon the earth. How long Oh, Lord, before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth.” The cry and the cry of so many suffering people today of God suffering, how long Oh, Lord, before you will judge, before you will avenge, before you will execute judgment. And so, the book of Revelation shows us this great battle. But it also shows us where the battle ends. What follows the death, the suffering and death is the resurrection. And the resurrection is not just the end. It’s the full triumph. The complete victory not just in Jesus, but a new heaven, new heavens and a new earth and a heavenly Jerusalem. That is the Church completely transformed and renewed and holiness leading to the wedding feast of the Lamb, the eternal union of God, with His people, with each faithful soul, and the fullness of joy forever. Blessed are those who are called to the wedding feast of the Lamb. So, in conclusion in the Mass, where we are going to hear in a little bit, when the priest holds up the Holy Eucharist, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.” And that’s this great battle of Jesus, the lamb taken away, and by His sacrifice, by His battle against the evil one, taking away the sins of the world. That was prefigured and prepared, in Exodus. So, awakening us through this great battle against darkness. So, the point I’m trying to stress in a time of which the sense of the Eucharist, again, has been so attacked, and so disgraced, the seriousness of the sacred mystery of the battle of the sacrifice of the lamb, in every Mass, as Padre Pio said. And so that’s what we’re accompanying, that’s what we’re experiencing. And these times are especially dark. But we are called to this battle. And in this battle, we are called to participate and receive, to participate, that is at the offertory. The offertory is the occasion to offer our sacrifices, our efforts, our prayers, our joys, and our blood, sweat and tears and our doubts and our struggles and our darkness, to offer that to the Lord. The Lord even says to Saint Faustina, He asked her to offer Him everything. And so she tries to offer Him everything, and He says, there’s something that you haven’t offered Me, and said that she did. It’s not what that could be. She’s tried to offer everything. And He says, “offer Me your misery,” your misery. If we don’t have anything else, we have misery. And if you don’t have enough, I could share some with you. So, we can also offer to the Lord, our misery, the pain of our misery, all that in the offertory. And it becomes part of His sacrifice. So, when a priest extends His hands over the bread and wine, if you’ve offered your sacrifices, it’s also over your offering, so that calls down the Holy Spirit, so that when He transforms the bread and wine, He will also be transformed, your sacrifice, united to the sacrifice of Jesus. So that, sharing with Him, His sacrifice, and then strengthened by His body and blood, in Holy Communion, so that because we’re weak, we know we’re weak, satan is very, very strong. and we’re often weak. But we have here at the victor, He who took on our weakness, and yet was strong, was invincible, undefeated, in the battle against all the power of satan. And He’s coming to us, so that we’re not fighting alone, that He is with us in this battle. So, we share His battle, to share one day, forever and ever and ever, not the battle now, but the fullness of the victory of His joy, of His eternal joy, the wedding feast of the Lamb, sharing on this earth, His suffering, to share forever His triumph. Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are those who are called to Holy Communion, to holy union, to the wedding feast of the Lamb. Amen.
KEYWORDS / PHRASES:
Exodus 12:1-8, 11-14
St. Padre Pio