For thousands of years there has been a simple and yet profound question asked in every Jewish home each year during their Passover meal. We could ask the same question as we gather around the table of the Lord’s Supper. That question forms the basis of all God desires us to know about his love.
“What makes this night different from all other nights” is the question asked by the youngest member of the family. The answer forms the reason why they insist on remembering the Passover event. We too on this night are remembering what Jesus did and said to his disciples in that upper room the night before he died. There is a connection God wants us to learn about the blood of the lamb and freedom. We would do well to understand what makes this night different from all other nights.
Typically during our mass of the Lord’s Supper in ever diocese, in ever parish those gathered will hear about the institution of the Eucharist and the priesthood. But there was much more going on in the upper room that night. If we are going to understand what makes this night different we must remember all that Jesus did and said that night. What went on in that upper room was Christ telling and showing us how we were going to be able to respond to the call to discipleship; showing us and telling us how to respond to God’s love; showing us and telling us how we would always do the will of God.
The accounts of the upper room in Matthew, Mark, and Luke offer some differences in what they record but for the most part they are the same. They all describe the breaking of bread and drinking of the cup of the covenant and they all talk about the betrayal by Judas. They cover that evening events in about 20 verses each and move on to the agony of Jesus in the garden.
John has much more detail about that evening in the upper room. In about 150 verses John records what makes this night different than any other night. John does not even mention the Eucharist in his account and it is important for us to understand why. John starts his account of that evening with Christ washing the feet of the disciples. What John was inspired to write in detail was what Christ said to his disciples and all of us who would follow them as believers and as disciples. Why was John inspired to focus on Jesus’ words and actions that evening rather than the institution of the Eucharist? In five chapters, 13 through 17, Jesus in word and example is telling us how we can always live as a disciple following God’s will.
As a people we have a tendency to always be looking for what we must do to be good Catholics and Christians. The Pharisees were very good Jews and we know Jesus praised their ability to follow the law but chastises them for not having hearts centered on God. Being good is not what God desires but he desires our response to his love manifested by Christ washing us clean of our sinful nature. This means the stench of our sin was removed and forgiven by Christ death and resurrection.
Becoming a disciple begins by each of us individually responding to the question Christ asked this night in the upper room – “Do you believe that I Am?” Do we really believe and if we believe then what is our response and our response should totally change us from being followers of the law to followers of Jesus. We must clothe ourselves in Christ and become new creations not by our own strength or energy but because Christ promised us on this night that the Holy Spirit will be given to us to be guide us, to teach us, to transform us into his very image and to reveal to us all he ever said and all he ever did.
When we understand that on this night Christ provided us the means to live out our faith not by our own means but he shows us it is in recognizing that apart from Christ we can do nothing. “I am the vine and you are the branches apart from me you can do nothing”, he said to them that night. It is in being clothed with power from on high to go out “do the things Christ did and even greater than Christ did because he is gone to the Father.”
Yes this night we are told that we are no longer what we once were but we are to be clothed with power from on high. The long awaited promise of God, the Holy Spirit, will be come to us and change our hearts, transform us into sons and daughters and empower us to do the things Christ did.
The words of Christ this night were demanding us to live to proclaim the kingdom by all we do and say. Jesus’ death freed us and compels us to go forth offering freedom to others by forgiving, by serving, by loving as Christ loved.
We are challenged this night to go forth and make known to the world that this night we were changed forever and have become the Sons and Daughters of the most high,
So as we begin our Passover meal begins let us remember “What makes this night different than any other night” – Jesus came to offer himself as the Passover sacrifice so we would be restored as heirs to the kingdom, as kings and queens of God’s kingdom and as his witnesses of all we have seen and heard.