Archbishop Peter A Comensoli preached this homily on Holy Thursday, 6 April 2023, at St Patrick’s Cathedral.
On the night of the first Passover, the blood smeared on the doorposts of the homes of the Israelites was a sign to God of the lives huddled within. The blood was a mark of life for God’s people, even as it signalled the passing over of death, destined for all the firstborn of the Egyptians.
It would be during the feast in commemoration of the first Passover that Jesus—the firstborn of Mary (Luke 2.7) and, in quick succession, the firstborn from the dead (Revelations 1.5)—would offer his own blood as the sign of life for all who drank it, allowing through his death the passing over of that death destined for us.
What once transpired for ‘the few’ huddled in their slave dwellings would come to be given for ‘the many’ in any dwelling where the sign of Christ’s blood is smeared.
This was not something earned, but offered; not merited, but freely given. As Jesus bent down to pour out the fullness of his love on his gathered disciples—including Judas, the betrayer, and Peter, the abandoner—he knew that his action for them, and for us all, would move from sign to reality in a few short hours.
Peter would not initially understand this, and Judas could not fathom it, but Jesus was proclaiming to them, and to the others, that his death would be the way in which they could have true life in him. And it would be forever sealed in the cup he offered them, from which we now drink.
This is the cup of Christ we share in: his blood, smeared on the doorposts of our lives, and those of the many, for our forgiveness. His death for our life; to be done in his memory.
As we commemorate the Lord’s Supper this evening, re-enacting on this night the fullness of the love he once showed to his disciples, and then partaking in the bread and cup of his sacrifice for us, let us remember—and accept—that this is our communion in the blood of Christ. Let God see his Son on our doorposts, that the death that marks us all might pass over us. God’s Son has taken on that death for us; his blood is the sign by which we now live.
In the ancient past, the blood of a lamb signalled freedom for an enslaved people. Now, in God’s Son, the true Lamb of God has become our salvation. The blood of Christ is the mark of life for us, God’s people; it is medicine for our healing, and nourishment for the journey.
Banner image: Vasily Poleno, Lord’s Supper.