On Holy Thursday we remember the Last Supper of Jesus with His Apostles where they celebrated the Festival of Unleavened Bread. They had a Passover meal which recounted the time when God rescued the Israelites from the slavery of the Egyptians. It was the Angel of God who watched over them and helped them to cross the Red Sea when they were escaping from the Pharaoh, whose chariots, horses and horsemen were chasing them right up to the crossing of the Red Sea.
On that day Yahweh delivered Israel from the power of the Egyptians and Israel saw the Egyptians lying dead on the seashore. (Exodus14:30)
The Eucharist was instituted by Jesus Christ. Even to this day it is a thanksgiving celebration, at every Mass and particularly on Holy Thursday. Before He suffered from the condemnation of the chief priests, the elders and scribes, Jesus had the Last Supper with the Apostles and He gave them the authority to continue the celebration of the Holy Banquet when the time would come that He would no longer be with them. This Eucharist, then, is a memorial legacy that He left for us.
When the hour came, He took his place at the table, and the apostles with him. He said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I tell you, I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the Kingdom of God.” Then He took a cup, and after giving thanks He said, “Take this and divide it among yourselves; for I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the Kingdom of God comes.” Then He took a loaf of 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 He did the same with the cup after supper, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. (Luke 22:14-20)
Jesus promised to be with us and so He is present in the celebration of the sacraments. As of now the Holy Meal of the Lord, the Eucharistic Celebration, continues the manifestation of Jesus with the priests and the faithful celebrating His real presence. Priesthood and the Eucharist, therefore, are important sacraments and they are interconnected with each other because the Eucharist cannot exist without the priest as the minister to say Holy Mass. Likewise without the priest the Eucharistic Celebration is not possible. It is in the Eucharist that God is inviting us to join Him at this Holy Banquet, to be united in Him, partaking of Himself as the great sacrificial thanksgiving offering for our salvation.
We should understand that the essence of the Eucharist is the highest form of prayer where Jesus’ real presence can be found. He is in the priest – the Alter Christus (other Christ), the scriptures that we hear, the bread and wine, transformed into His Body and Blood, that we partake. We are one with Him in prayer. Every time we participate in the Holy Mass, we encounter Jesus. He is there for us and with us. Consequently, try not to miss the Sunday Masses or any other Feasts and Solemnities which the Church celebrates because Jesus is waiting for us in that most Holy Banquet. As part of our Christian commitment, let us continue to pray that all priests and their ministries become authentic witnesses of Christ as the Good Shepherd, and that they may continue to take care of the flock that God has entrusted to their care.
Why say prayers for priests? Because, as St. John Vianney, the patron saint of parish priests, once said “After God, the priest is everything.” — Prayers for Priests