Father will read part of the Last Supper Discourse from the Gospel Reading for the Sixth Sunday in Easter at our Reno, Nevada Cathedral. Above him and slightly to his right is a statue of St. Joseph the Worker, spouse of Our Blessed Virgin who stands to the far left of nave. Father Francisco is one of the most educated priests in our Diocese of Reno. He knows Hebrew, Greek, and some Aramaic. He knows the history behind Jesus’ words, “I know longer call you workers.” The allusion Jesus presents to us is the escape from being menial labor, common, bound workers in Egypt. Almighty Judge brings these workers to Mt. Sinai/Mt. Horeb and lays out the foundations of a new community:
The Personal Name, our Almighty Judge, made a social contract/Brit with us at Horeb; not with our fathers did the Personal Name make this social contract/Brit, but with us, all of us, alive, here, this day. Face to face, the Personal Name spoke with you on the mountain…, while I was standing between the Personal Name and you at that time, to announce to you these words of the Personal Name… I am the Personal Name your Almighty Judge, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, the house of menial labor.
God speaks to the Jewish people in the exact same way Jesus speaks to his apostles in the Farewell or Last Supper Discourse. The Jews were slaves, servants, menial laborers of Pharaoh in Egypt, rescued by God for his service. The apostles, poor folk, were laborers to their overlords in Israel, rescued by Jesus into his service. God speaks to the Jewish people face-to-face, פָּנִים בְּפָנִים, literally face-in-face, as a friend. Jesus speaks to his followers face-to-face. God creates the foundation for a new community, the Judeo-Christian community.
Catholics and Protestants debate in Reno, Nevada concerning whether salvation comes by faith or works. Reading New Testament salvation in light of Torah salvation provides the answer. “It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit.” Salvation comes first; fruits/works necessarily follow. The Jewish people did not choose God. Exodus 9:1 reads, “שַׁלַּח אֶת-עַמִּי.” The Hebrew literally reads, “Send my people out.” The Greek is, “ἐξ-απόστειλον.” The English letters are “Ex-apostle.” “Apostle” means, “sent.” Jesus ties the apostles as representatives of the Jewish people.
The Ten Commandments properly begin, “I am the Personal Name your Almighty Judge, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, the house of menial labor.” Jewish commentary relates how the implied word is, “Remember.” “Remember what it was like to be oppressed in Egypt.” In the Jewish Seder, predecessor to our Eucharist, the Jewish community remembers in first person present terms, oppression in Egypt. The Jewish Seder places its participants so there is no leader. All serve each other as equals. They are no longer workers/servants, but friends. Jesus does the same with his apostles in the Eucharist. The Last Supper of the Last Supper Discourse is this Jewish Seder. We are no longer workers/servants, but friends.
This brings us in a strange way to Our Blessed Virgin, and St. Joseph the worker. The Aramaic word for friend, as used in the Peshitta for this passage is “Racham.” “Racham” is Aramaic and Hebrew word for a woman’s womb. It means to stimulate the maternal instinct,” as Rabbi Jastrow informs us. It is the Hebrew word for “Mercy.” Revelations 12:17 relates of the New Christian community, “The Taanah became angry with the woman and went off to wage war against the rest of her offspring, those who keep God’s mitzvah and bear witness to Jesus.”
The women in Revelations 12 can only be our Blessed Virgin. Her offspring/children are all of those who keep God’s mitzvah and bear witness to Jesus, not with words, but with what they do. They show God stimulated their maternal instincts by saving them. They now bring this maternal instinct into the world. We do not love to get into heaven. We love because we are already there. The sense of gratitude for God’s loving us causes us to love each other. If we do this, we can forget the rest of the Ten Commandments. Our gratitude will motivate correctly.
Were you in Egypt? Have you suffered the pangs of the sweatshops and the oppression of poverty? Were you at Calvary? Eucharist brings the Jewish Seder and the Passion of Jesus into the first person present. If not, you are not fully participating in the Eucharist.