Holy Thursday and the New Commandment
“I give you a new commandment: Love one another as I have loved you" - (John 13:34)
Holy Thursday kicks off the last three days of Holy Week. Oftentimes referred to as the Easter Triduum or Triduum Sacrum, the three-part drama of Jesus' redemption is now poised to unfold. In contrast to the stark and barren tone of Good Friday, Holy Thursday finds Jesus at supper one last time with his beloved brothers the Apostles. “For He loved His own in the world, and He loved them to the end" (John 13:1).
Although undoubtedly deep in emotional introspective agony by virtue of what He was to knowingly endure the very next day, Jesus forgoes self-pity and fear to instead leave his friends with a lasting example to emulate. Not only did Jesus humble himself to share in our humanity, he partakes of the two tasks that went on to define His time on Earth. He takes one last moment to teach and to serve.
John's Gospel (13:1-15) takes us back to the Passover Supper, evoking our rich Judeo-Christian tradition. In a very tangible gesture of humble service, Jesus washes the Apostles' feet. A number of them are taken aback by this, but Jesus goes on to explain to them that as the undisputed teacher and master, he has given his disciples a model to follow.
Pope Francis celebrated Holy Thursday Mass 7 years ago at the juvenile prison Casal del Marmo in Rome, where he too washed the feet of the young inmates. What a tremendous message of hope to send to these youngsters, reinforcing the fact that society has not forgotten about or given up on them. Quite the contrary, for as we learned in Luke's Passion, the criminal who was to be executed next to Jesus, the man who Biblical Historians refer to as Dismas, implored the Son of Man to remember him when He entered into His Kingdom. Jesus assures him that he would in fact on this day be with him in paradise. As our brother's keepers, we must never give up on a person or abandon our efforts to reach out to them.
As the Easter Season winds down towards the dramatic and triumphant climax that is Easter Sunday, our need for introspection remains strong. Are we following the path that Jesus blazed for us with regard to service towards others? Do we love our neighbor as ourselves?
Martin Luther King once said "Within every man exists the potential for greatness, because greatness is not measured by fame, but in service to others".
May we all be so blessed as to achieve such greatness. For in doing so we know that Jesus will take delight as we serve him through service to others, those who are his beloved children who God the Father created out of love.