Anything we deem important in life we prepare for carefully. Students who want to do well spend hours preparing for final exams. Couples who want to begin their married life on solid footing prepare months in advance for the day of their wedding. Families plan ahead and prepare for summer activities and vacations. We prepare to get a new dog, start a new job, move to a new house. If it’s important, we prepare for it.

Just as many verses in our gospel this weekend are about preparing the Passover meal as are about eating it. Jesus’ disciples know that the proper celebration of this great feast takes careful preparation, and so they ask Jesus how He wants them to prepare for it. In reply, Jesus sends two of His disciples into the city of Jerusalem with specific instructions on how to make a reservation and with whom to make it. Jesus tells the disciples to find a man carrying a jar of water and to follow him wherever he goes. Since it was ordinarily the job of women to fetch and carry water, a man performing this task would have stood out.

What Jesus doesn’t tell the disciples to do, is what else to do besides finding the right place to celebrate the Passover meal. Jesus doesn’t give any instructions on how to prepare the meal itself. He just tells them, once they find the Upper Room, to “[m]ake the preparations for us there.”

While St. Mark doesn’t tell us who these two disciples were that Jesus sent ahead of Him to make the preparations, we know from the Gospel of Luke that they were Peter and John (Luke 22:8). But being faithful Jews, Peter and John would have known what else they needed to do to prepare for the Passover meal. They knew that they would have had to procure a lamb, bring it to the Temple in Jerusalem to be slaughtered, and to prepare it for the meal by roasting it. And they would have known exactly how to do each of these steps, which couldn’t be done just any old way.

There were specific instructions that Peter and John had to follow to make the necessary preparations. It couldn’t be just any lamb they procured, it had to be an unblemished male lamb, a perfect male lamb, one that was in prime condition, and that was only a year old. When they took the lamb to the Temple, one of them would have had to cut its throat, being careful to do so only when a Temple priest was with them. The priest was there to catch the blood of the lamb in a sacred vessel so that it could be taken into the Temple and poured out by the priest upon the altar.

The lamb would have then been prepared for roasting in a very specific way. After it was skinned, it would have been skewered with two wooden rods. One rod would have been put in vertically, from head to tail; the other would been put in horizontally to spread out the lamb’s legs. In other words, the lamb would have been crucified: its body spread out with wooden rods in the form of a cross. All this Peter and John had to do to prepare the Passover lamb, and that was only one part of the meal, even if it was the most important part.

Anything important in life calls for careful preparation. Jesus and His disciples prepared carefully for the Passover meal. They took a full day to do it, making sure that every detail was attended to, and every instruction followed. And although they didn’t know this in advance, they were actually preparing for something far greater than an annual Passover meal. They were actually preparing to celebrate the Last Supper, when Jesus instituted the Holy Eucharist, the Sacrament of His Precious Body and Blood. Had they known this, perhaps their preparations would have been even more careful than they already were.

The question for us is this: How do we prepare to celebrate and receive the Holy Eucharist each week? Anything important in life calls for careful preparation. And if the Holy Eucharist really is Jesus Himself—the very God who created us, who redeemed us, and with whom we hope to spend all eternity—if the Holy Eucharist really is Jesus’ Body and Blood, then receiving this gift must be the most important part of our week to prepare for. And so, how do we prepare for it?

We might think of our preparations to receive Jesus in the Holy Eucharist in two ways: remote and proximate. In a certain sense, everything we do and don’t do in life can be seen as preparing us, however remotely, to receive the Holy Eucharist. The Passover lamb wasn’t just prepared for the meal on the day it was slaughtered, it was prepared for the meal from the moment it was born. Every care and precaution had to be taken so that this newborn male lamb would be fed, grown, and reach its prime without being hurt or harmed in any way. Sheep in general, and lambs in particular, are very vulnerable. And so, it was no small feat to raise a lamb suitable for Passover, one without any spot or blemish.

Our preparation to receive the Holy Eucharist is not just about what we do on the day itself, whether that’s Saturday, Sunday, or any other day of the week. Everything we do in life, from the moment we are born, can be seen as preparing us in some way to receive this great gift. When we receive Jesus in the Holy Eucharist, when we say “Amen,” we are telling Jesus that He is welcome into every aspect of our lives. That means, to best prepare for this, we should try to welcome Jesus into every aspect of our lives every day. Would I want to welcome Jesus into these words I am about to say? Would I want to welcome Jesus into this thought I have about this person? Would I want to welcome Jesus into this thing I’m about to do or not do? Like the Passover lamb, we should want to offer to Jesus a soul without spot or blemish, a perfect place for Him to be welcomed into. If we haven’t been welcoming Jesus into our lives, we can prepare to do so again through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Our proximate preparation to receive the Holy Eucharist is what we do on the day itself. Keeping the one hour Eucharistic fast, dressing our best for Mass, making sure we take time to pray and reflect before Mass begins, and participating as fully as possible in the Mass itself, are all important ways we do this. 

For some reason, it’s become popular to dismiss these forms of preparation for Mass, or to downplay them, by saying something like, “Jesus loves me where I am at.” And that’s true, of course. Jesus does love us where we are at, whether we are properly prepared or not. But notice that we don’t adopt this attitude when preparing for anything else important in life. Whether it’s a test, a wedding, a vacation, a new job, a new house, or a new dog, we know we must make careful preparations. “My teacher will still like me,” is a bad excuse for not preparing for the test. “My future wife will love me anyways,” is a bad excuse for not preparing for the wedding. If we don’t prepare for something, it’s because we don’t think it’s important. And our lack of preparation communicates to other people that we don’t think it’s important.

Let’s take seriously our preparation for Mass, our preparation on the day itself, and our preparation on the other six days of the week. Half of our gospel this weekend, on this feast of Corpus Christi, is dedicated to preparing for the Last Supper. We are about to celebrate that same Supper and receive that same gift, the gift of Jesus’ Precious Body and Blood. I hope we are prepared.