It's Maundy Thursday today. The time in our church calendar when we are to receive Jesus' new commandment, (which is what "maundy" means in Latin): "I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." ~John 13:34-35.
Maundy Thursday is the practice and acknowledgment of several different elements in the Holy Week Discourse of Scripture. First we see Jesus wash the feet of his disciples. Then they celebrate the Last Supper, after which Jesus, "with a troubled spirit" (John 13:21) identifies Judas as the betrayer, and then the new commandment is offered. Finally, the day comes to a sleepy close in the Garden of Gethsemane.
There is so much dense theology in this day, that a short devotion here cannot even begin to encapsulate all of it. You may want to pause here to read all of John 13. In the short phrase in vs. 2b-3 it's as if we see Jesus finally understand how his ministry/mission will end. "And during supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God..." I wonder if there was any relief that he didn't have to continue wondering where this was all going, this ushering in life in the new kingdom stuff? Or was he to plagued with worry or suspicion to have any room for positive emotion. At this point, John tells us that Jesus understands how his time on earth will end--in death. How difficult it is when we long for our dearest life partners to understand what ails us. What loneliness Christ must have endured this day.
My final thought is this. Here is Jesus, the penultimate example of God's love for the world getting ready to die, but he must first identify the one among them who will give Jesus up to the Romans. And because that love is so authentic, thick, and natural, the disciples have no idea who it is. Vs. 22, "The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he was speaking. One of the disciples--the one whom Jesus loved--was reclining next to him...he asked him, "Lord, who is it?" At which point Jesus dipped the piece of bread into the dish and handed it to Judas. Had it been one of us preparing for death, communing one last time with our closest confidants, knowing that one of them was a traitor only for a few silver coins, how could we not help but to treat him differently, or a bit coldly, to such an extant that at least one of our other more intuitive friends would have surely picked up on the tension? No one here notices, because there is nothing to notice. Jesus treated Judas no differently. Truly, he lived his message. This is just but one more example.
Friends, may we continue to follow in the footsteps of our Savior, bending over to wash one another's feet, sharing the bread and wine of Christ, doing our best to stay awake in the Garden of Gethsemane while offering prayers and support. Let us taste the body and blood of Jesus together today as we remember him and his profound ways of redemption.
Questions for Reflection:
Do we trust God enough to move into this depth of love, the depths of grace?
Do we trust God with all of our ourselves?
How is our desire to be in holy communion with our neighbors be most manifest?
By Thomas Merton,
I unite myself with those who gather in your name to receive the sacrament of your body and blood. You have made me one with you and one with them by the power of your Holy Spirit. Unworthy, I am called to your table and your hospitality. I shall gratefully sit and eat. Amen.
Peace to you,