I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you

When Jesus speaks of “this Passover”, he means the Last Supper – the first Holy Mass or the Eucharist. Like all the Jews, Jesus was celebrating the Passover, the feast that each year commemorates the Exodus from Egypt, and reminds us of the mercy and of the love of God. In Egypt, the lamb without blemish was sacrificed and eaten in haste, people were ready to go, to leave slavery, to run away from the enemy and reach the Promised Land.

On that evening, Jesus became the sacrificial lamb. He celebrated His own exodus from the world. This Passover was the accomplishment of His mission in the world. He gives His life. He sacrifices Himself with love for all, Jesus, the Lamb of God.

Let us read a passage from the Gospel according to Luke:

Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. So Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we may eat it.” They said to Him, “Where will You have us prepare it?” He said to them, “Behold, when you have entered the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you; follow him into the house which he enters, and tell the householder, ‘The Teacher says to you, Where is the guest room, where I am to eat the Passover with My disciples?’ And he will show you a large upper room furnished; there make ready.” And they went, and found it as He had told them; and they prepared the Passover.

And when the hour came, He sat at table, and the apostles with Him. And He said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I tell you I shall not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” And He took a cup, and when He had given thanks He said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves; for I tell you that from now on I shall not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” And He took bread, and when He had given thanks He broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is My Body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.” And likewise the cup after supper, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My Blood.” (Lk 22:7-19)

They Recognized Him in the Breaking of the Bread

Luke describes what happened to two disciples on the road to Emmaus. This is a real teaching and message about the Eucharist. In this event, we can recognise human and divine elements of the eucharistic sacrifice.

The disciples ran away, disappointed and afraid because of what happened on Good Friday. They believed that they had hoped in Christ in vain. They spoke to one another about their pain and despair. Who knows how long they would have discussed things in such a way and where they would have ended, if the Risen Jesus did not intervene. They did not recognise Him at first, but their hearts began to burn. As a sign of gratitude, they invited the stranger to stay with them and to continue His journey on the next day. The stranger accepted, not because He needed a place to stay overnight, but because He eagerly desired to be with those, whom He had already strengthened by His word. Now He wanted to strengthen them with His Body, because He gave His life for all.

Let us read a passage from the Gospel according to Luke:

That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus Himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing Him. And He said to them, “What is this conversation which you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered Him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” And He said to them, “What things?” And they said to Him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and rulers delivered Him up to be condemned to death, and crucified Him. But we had hoped that He was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since this happened. Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning and did not find His body; and they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that He was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb, and found it just as the women had said; but Him they did not see.” And He said to them, “O foolish men, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into His glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, He interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning Himself.

So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He appeared to be going further, but they constrained Him, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So He went in to stay with them. When He was at table with them, He took the bread and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened and they recognized Him; and He vanished out of their sight. They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while He talked to us on the road, while He opened to us the scriptures?” And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven gathered together and those who were with them, who said, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how He was known to them in the breaking of the bread. (Lk 24:13-35)

After the encounter with Christ, their hearts were burning, their hope was healed, their faith was aroused, they found again the meaning of life, they were tired no more, they went back to Jerusalem and testified before Peter and the apostles that Christ is truly risen, and they accepted their mission. All these are reasons, but also results of the eucharistic encounter.

(Barbarić, Slavko. 2018. Celebrate Mass with the heart.)

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