Maundy Thursday is the oldest of the Holy Week observances, rich in tradition. Holy Thursday is loaded with ceremonies pointing to the “newness” of the Paschal Mysteries – the consecration of holy oils, the washing of feet, and the Mass of the Lord’s Supper.
On this Maundy Thursday, I want to share several lessons found in the Gospel of St. John during the Last Supper discourse.
Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, rose from supper, laid aside his garments, and girded himself with a towel. Then he poured water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which he was girded…When he had washed their feet, and taken his garments, and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. – Jn 13:3-5, 12-15
Jesus is the model of humility. He sets an example of service. He willingly takes on the task of a servant, the washing of the feet.
During Jesus’ time the washing of feet was a common, daily task. You wore sandals or went barefoot, the roads were predominately dirt, and you had to walk everywhere. So your feet stayed dirty. When you came home, a foot bath was in order.
So how am I to wash feet?
In my day-to-day life, I have to look for opportunities to serve. St. Thérèse of Lisieux, in her Little Way, manifested this practical idea of serving God and others. She was faithful in giving to God, as acts of love, all the little tasks of the day and her interactions with others. I too have such opportunities. Whether it’s washing dishes left in the sink, helping with dinner, brushing my children’s teeth, or helping my neighbor with some task each of these can be done as an act of love for God.
Charitable initiatives within the Church are both good and important. However, the daily living of charity, especially in the home, my domestic church, is vital for my growth in holiness. God gives me so many chances to serve.
“I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me…Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I go to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, I will do it, that the Father may be glorified in the Son; if you ask anything in my name, I will do it.” - Jn 14:6, 12-14
Christ’s words demand certitude in two ways. First, He demands certitude of me as a believer. Jesus wants me to ask in His Name, to come to the Father with confidence. Secondly, He demands certitude of me in His Church. Christ, having given His authority to the Church (Matt 16:19), here tells the apostles whatever they ask will be done. On this Maundy Thursday, it is Christ who institutes the Holy Eucharist. It is Christ who establishes the priesthood. Through the Eucharist and the priesthood the New Covenant is perpetuated and manifested in the One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic Church founded by Jesus Christ.
This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you…This I command you, to love one another. - Jn 15:12-14, 17
All you need is love. Can that really be true? It almost seems too easy. Yet, love is a narrow path. St. Augustine once said:
Love, and do what thou wilt: whether thou hold thy peace, through love hold thy peace; whether thou cry out, through love cry out; whether thou correct, through love correct; whether thou spare, through love do thou spare: let the root of love be within, of this root can nothing spring but what is good. - In epistulam Ioannis ad Parthos
Love always brings about what is good, but love also involves the cross. I grow in love as I die to myself, that is why Christ points to the laying down of one’s life for his friends. Those little opportunities of service are also opportunities to love. I must lay aside selfishness and self-seeking.
This Maundy Thursday, may each of us, confident in our Faith, strive to love and serve God and one another.
As we enter into this Easter Triduum, let our hearts be filled with sorrow for our sins, yet joy and thanksgiving for so great a Savior!
How great is our God.
May God bless you and keep you.