Maundy Thursday, 9 April 2020
Today we enter the Paschal Triduum, or Great Three Days, the most holy, solemn days in the Christian liturgical calendar. If we open our hearts and let the Liturgy, actions and words sink into our hearts, it can be life-transforming.
Beginning on Maundy Thursday, Jesus enters into the final conflict with darkness which includes His betrayal, arrest, scourging and ultimately His death on the cross. On this evening, our Lord does and leaves with His disciples and us several important things:
The institution of the Lord’s Supper
The New Commandment
A call to serve
For this reason it is called Maundy, which derives from the Latin mandatum novum (new commandment). He tells the Church, “A new Commandment I give to you, that you should love one another even as I have loved you.” By demonstrating divine love to humanity, Jesus redefines and raises the bar of love. We are all in the process of becoming and learning the love of Christ.
The practice of foot washing was common in the Eastern world at that time. Because of the dust in the dry climate and the wearing of sandals, when guests entered a home, a servant would bring a basin and wash their feet. Jesus chooses to reverse the social rules: He, the King of kings and the Lord of lords, washed the feet of His disciples – to everyone’s surprise. He reached the highest point of His service to humanity by dying on the cross. This narrative is much more striking if we gaze intently at its simplicity and His divine humility. The King of kings, the Creator of heaven and earth, washed the feet of His disciples – His followers and students. I wonder what that says to us and to the world.
When it was Peter’s turn, he said, “I’m not going to let You wash my feet.” Jesus said, “If you don’t let Me wash your feet, you have no share with Me.” Peter responded, “If You’re going to wash my feet, why don’t You also wash my head and hands?” This was Peter’s personality – it had to be all or nothing. However, our Lord’s act of divine humility in washing His disciples’ feet points to the washing away of the filth of sin that we receive sacramentally at Baptism.
Examples of servanthood
We seek to emulate the servanthood that others have demonstrated in more recent history, as our Lord demonstrated it to His disciples. Mother Teresa of Calcutta was not perfect, but she did a lot for the people of India. She took the poorest of the poor, washed them, helped them, prayed to God for their healing, and took care of them.
St. Maximilian Kolbe was born on 8 January 1894. In 1910 he entered the Conventual Franciscan Friars, then he went to Rome to study for the Priesthood. There he founded an association dedicated to promoting devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Afterwards he founded similar associations in Poland and Japan. When Poland was invaded during World War II, Fr. Kolbe was arrested and transferred to three different concentration camps then unexpectedly released. In 1941 he was arrested again and sent to Auschwitz without trial. There he started a secret ministry and sometimes spent the whole night hearing confessions. One day a prisoner escaped from his block; as a punishment, ten prisoners were chosen randomly to die of starvation. One man who was chosen sighed, “My wife, my children!”; Fr. Kolbe was moved with compassion and offered his life to take his place. Two weeks later the guards needed a cell for more victims. Opening the bunker, they found four people still alive including Fr. Kolbe; they were injected to hasten their death, and the following day their bodies were burned. Fr. Maximilian Kolbe was canonised in 1982.
Let us serve God by loving others
St. Maximilian Kolbe is an inspiration because of his heroic love for his neighbour which, like Christ, motivated him to give his life for another. Today we are reminded that our Lord served us and that we are to follow His example. He who loves serves, and he who serves loves: the two cannot be separated. All of us Christians, not only clergy, are called to serve in our different professions. When our actions towards our neighbours are inspired by the love of God and offered for the glory of God, that is true service.
Let us renew our Covenant and our commitment, not only in serving the Lord but also in serving one another in the bond of love and peace. God may be calling you to serve Him; if you hear His call, give your life to Him and serve Him. There are people in the medical field serving God for the sake of humanity, even if they are not aware of it, and He will bless them for doing so. This is also a day when clergy renew their vows to the Church and to the Lord. We have been given a wonderful opportunity, the opportunity of a lifetime, to serve the Master. Let us remember that when we serve people we are serving Christ; let that be our motivation. You might start with something small like calling someone and sharing with them the hope, faith and love of Christ: that is serving God. When we serve people, we don’t really see people but we see Christ in them.