“Before the feast of Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to pass from this world to the Father.” John. 13:1
What would you do if you knew that in a few hours your friends would all desert you and deny you? What would you do if you knew that in hours you would be handed over by a friend to be judged, tortured and killed?
Imagine being in that upper room with Jesus. The tension is palpable. There is unease and you are anxious because you know there are powerful people wanting to hurt Jesus. You are frightened for Jesus and for yourself. What will happen to you and your friends if Jesus is gone?
It is the feast of the Passover the time to remember the Exodus, God’s mighty works to free the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. It is a solemn and sacred feast. Yet there is a pall over everyone, suspicion, doubt and fear.
Jesus wants to reassure his friends. He wants to give them a gift that will support them, comfort them and give them the strength and courage to go on. He takes a basin of water and a towel and kneels at the feet of each person, even Judas. He gently washes their feet. This is the duty of the lowest servant, yet Jesus humbly cares for each sore, dusty foot with loving kindness. Then he tells them that he has modeled how they are to treat one another.
Jesus knows that his disciples and friends will be terrified and lost when he is taken. He loves them so much and wants to reassure them that his love will never leave them. He wants to give them the gift of himself to nurture, nourish and sustain them in the darkest hours. He took the bread and the cup and offered a new blessing. He broke the bread saying,”This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” Sharing the cup he said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
The sacred rituals of Holy Thursday allow us to remember Jesus’ great love for each of us. At the monastery the council, (leadership) remember and model Jesus’ love by washing the feet or hands of one another. Each Eucharist we are privileged to receive Jesus just as his friends did at the last supper. He is here to nurture, nourish and sustain each of us. What a wonderful gift!
Jan Ginzkey, OSB