In the previous section, we reviewed the series of covenants God made with his people. Yet the book of Genesis tells us that the people were unfaithful to the covenant, and so they became slaves in Egypt. God made a new covenant with Israel through Moses, with the same promises. The sign of this new covenant was the Passover meal. In this meal, the chosen people were to eat the Paschal lamb, whose blood would save them from the destruction to come upon the first-born of Egypt. The condition was their obedience to the Ten Commandments (Exodus 12).
But, the Scriptures tell us, the people were still unfaithful to the covenant. During their wandering in the desert on their way to the land of Israel, God sustained them with manna; “He gave them bread from the heavens to eat” (Psalm 78:24; Psalm 105:40; John 6:31.49-50).
God also sent them prophets, like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and many others. The prophets called the people back to covenant faithfulness by reminding them of God’s word: “Thus says the Lord.” Through the prophets, God promised a new covenant and new hearts for His people (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Ezekiel 36:25-27). They were to abandon the worship of idols and truly belong to the one true God in fidelity, mercy, justice, and love (Hosea 2:21-22). God would provide a feast of the finest food and wine for His people, and destroy death forever (Isaiah 25:6-8).
It is in Jesus Christ that all these promises of the Old Testament, and every longing of the human heart, are fulfilled. God’s own Son took on our human nature to reconcile all humanity to God. He promises us everlasting life. The effective sign of this “new and everlasting covenant” is the Eucharist. Our conditions for sharing in this eternal life are Baptism into Christ and striving to follow Him Who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6).
Salvation from the power of sin and death are achieved through the redemptive sacrifice of the Son of God on our behalf. Jesus offered His life on the Cross in loving union with the will of His Father. He recreated human nature in the divine image and restored to us the life of grace that had been lost through sin.
Through his words, his deeds, and his very Person, Jesus is the perfect revelation of God. In his parables, his miracles, and his reconciliation of sinners, Jesus leads us to understand his true mission from the Father. This mission is to reconcile all of us in one Body to God through his sacrificial death and glorious resurrection.
As the Evangelists record in the Gospels, the Last Supper Jesus celebrated with his Apostles was linked with the annual Jewish celebration of the Passover meal. Each year the Jewish community would recall the event of liberation from slavery through God’s intervention in the Exodus. The Gospels teach us that Jesus is the true Lamb of God, whose blood saves us from eternal death (John 1:29.36). So, as he is about to lead the new and perfect Exodus, the true Passover from death to life, Jesus gives us the new commandment:
"Love one another as I have loved you. There is no greater love than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you" (John 15:12-14).
Through the gesture of washing his disciples’ feet, Jesus showed them that love, service, and the Eucharist are intimately linked in His Kingdom. In his command, “Do this in memory of Me,” Jesus established the apostles as priests of the New Testament in his blood and so instituted the sacrament of Holy Orders. This sacrament of Orders exists for the sake of the Eucharist. As mentioned, he commissions all his Church to imitate the love we celebrate in the Eucharist, with each person fulfilling his or her own role in the Body of Christ (Romans 12:4-8; I Corinthians 12:4-11).
God had given Moses the Passover ritual by which the community of faith was to remember each year God’s intervention in their history to bring salvation. This ritual was given before the Exodus event actually took place (see Exodus 12:1-20). In the same way, Jesus instituted the sacrament of the Eucharist at his Last Supper the night before the historical event of salvation took place with the sacrifice of Calvary on Good Friday afternoon. The Catholic Church has celebrated this new Passover in the Eucharist, without interruption, for almost twenty centuries, in countless places all over the globe, in obedience to the word of Jesus: "Do this in memory of Me" (Luke 22:19; I Corinthians 11:22-26).