Today marks the end of Lent and the beginning of Triduum, the most holy days of our liturgical year (excluding Easter itself). While the Jews are celebrating passover, we are given the opportunity to celebrate something more: the "Last Supper," in which notable was instituted the Church's most beloved sacrament.
Reflecting on the timing of this last meal, I see some interesting parallels between the passover meal and the last supper itself. Recall that the passover meal was the last meal which would have been eaten by the Israelites while in the captivity of Egypt. The next day the Pharaoh would set them free (if only to later change his mind on the matter). Similarly, this meal would have been Christ's last before His death, but also His apostles' last meal before that event.
The last meal for the Israelites would be meant to give them the strength to begin their flight the next morning; the apostles' last meal with their Master was meant to give them the strength to live in His absence. Did they cower and hide after Christ's arrest? Some surely did (though we know at least one of them stood at the foot of the Cross); some surely had doubts, just as the Israelites surely also had doubts during their time in the desert, and especially when Pharaoh reniged on his promise, leading his army in pursuit of his fleeing slaves. The apostles feared that the modern "Pharaoh" may soon come for them, too, with the roles reversed. For it was not "Pharaoh's" firstborn who hung upon the cross on cavalry, but rather the Firstborn Son of Mary.
During that last meal, the apostles were given a gift which has been passed down through the generations, the gift of that Sacrament of Communion, which would one day be the nourishment of their spirits, the food which would give them the strength to cross the desert into paradise. Christ was crucified, the Firstborn slain so that the New Israel could be freed. But that new freedom is not the end of the tale. The Israelite had to wander through the wilderness for forty years before they could enter their promised lands. So too did the apostles and disciples have a wilderness of their own to wander, as do we even today.
We live our lives in this wilderness, this "vale of tears," we are not all born in heaven without first living on earth, dying on earth. The Israelites were given manna, the bread from heaven, to strengthen them on their journey. We too have been given our own Manna, the Perfect Manna, the Bread of Life: the Eucharist. The manna was sent for the bodily nourishment of the Israelites, and it did that quite well; we are given the Eucharist for our spiritual nourishment. Do we accept this Gift, do we allow our participation in Holy Communion to strengthen us on the journey? Or do we turn away from it by sin, do we reject the Eucharist, do we begin to see it as "just another meal" as the Israelites began to reject the manna and view it as the same-old bread eaten every day? Or do we approach the Lord's table with gratitude, do we share this communion in thanksgiving as the very word "Eucharist" implies?