To read the texts click on the texts: Ex 12:1-8,11-14; 1 Cor 11:23-26; Jn 13:1-15
The English word Maundy comes from the Latin Mandatum which means command. And the reason why Maundy Thursday is so called is because the church celebrates this as the day in which Jesus gave his love command. What Jesus was in effect doing was summarizing his entire life. In bending down to wash the feet of the disciples in Jn 13:1-13, Jesus brings together all that he was, all that he is, all that he does. With Jesus there was no dichotomy, there was no separation between his being and his doing. Jesus did who he was. Jesus said what he did.
And so, on this Maundy Thursday we are called through this event of the washing of the feet, to ask ourselves some serious questions, and the first of these is “Is there a separation between my being and my doing?
Am I one of those persons who say one thing but does another? Or am I a person who does not do what he says?
Am I a person who cannot be trusted to fulfil an obligation?
Am I a person who is known for not keeping his word? Another area that we can look at, is the area of our conditional, of determined love?
Is my love barter exchange? Do I expect something in return for my love? Is my relationship with people a matter of “you give me, I give you”? Is it a matter of how much can I get out of this person rather than how much can I give?
Another theme that we can look upon during this reflection is the prophetic gesture that Jesus performs when he washes the feet of the disciples. Many interpret this gesture as an action of a slave. However, John is very clear that the washing was not before the meal as slaves would do but when they were in the midst of the meal. And even though Jesus knows that Judas is going to betray him, even though Jesus knows that Peter is going to deny him, he washes their feet. And this is what is prophetic about the gesture. First, that it was done after the meal had begun, something totally unexpected, and second, that he could wash the feet of the betrayer, of a denier and of the others who ran away. So there was nothing within the disciples that would have prompted anyone to wash their feet; there was nothing within the disciples that would have made anyone reach out to them. It was what was in Jesus that made him even to look at the disciples with the eyes, the heart, the mind, of love. And even as he washed the feet of Judas and Peter, he was loving, forgiving and accepting them. This is the true meaning of forgiveness; it is the true meaning of love, it is the true meaning of Maundy Thursday.
So, If Jesus was able to bring together his being and his doing, his word and his action, I need to ask myself whether I can do that myself. If Jesus was able to love unconditionally, expecting nothing in return, I need to ask myself whether I’m capable of such love. If Jesus was able to love, forgive, and accept and pardon even those who he knew would reject him, deny him, betray him, am I capable of such forgiveness and acceptance? This is the theme of the life of Jesus, of the ministry of Jesus and of what Jesus is calling us to do before we enter, to reflect on his passion. And we need to ask ourselves what have I done for Christ, what am I doing for Christ, what ought I do for Christ?
During this time and before we can enter the passion proper, our hearts, our minds, our whole being must get ready for this challenge. In the gospel of Lk 9:57-62, we read about the would be disciples of Jesus, those who had the intention, may be even the desire of following, but those who had excuses ready why they could not follow. Am I like those would be disciples, am I like those who are ready with an excuse why I cannot love or cannot forgive, am I like those who are ready in fact that being and doing do not coincide and so can find an excuse. Or am I going to rise up to that challenge of Jesus who invites me today to take up your cross and follow him. And even as I spoke about love and forgiveness, I want to speak about your own love and forgiveness; I want to speak about your own love for your husband or your wife, for your children or parents, for your neighbour or your colleague, and I would like to ask you whether your love is unconditional or whether it can be termed barter exchange. A very good way to find that out is to ask yourself this question – Do I love this person? Is it because of an obligation, is it because of a duty, is it because many years ago I made a commitment in the church, and so now I have to stick to that commitment? If that is the case, then it is very likely that your love is a barter exchange. But, if your love is without any kind of wanting from the other person then it can be like the love of Jesus.
And even as you are unable to forgive, I would like to direct your attention to this beautiful scene, and picture in your mind’s eye of Jesus washing the feet of Judas, looking at him possibly, looking at his eyes and seeing in there the betrayal, and yet having the ability to wash his feet and forgive. If you can think, reflect, pray and know in your heart that you are capable of such love, then you can enter with the Lord into his passion.