He loved His own in the world and He loved them to the end…
Day Thirty Eight of Lent: Holy Thursday (Maundy Thursday) – John 13
“He loved His own in the world and He loved them to the end” -Jn 13:1b
Today’s Lenten Reflection
What does “Maundy” mean?
On Thursday of the passion week, our Lord Jesus – knowing full well that He would be betrayed and crucified within hours – offered Himself to His disciples as their servant. How did He do this? He took off His outer garments, bowed low to the ground, and washed their feet.
Reflect on this most solemn scene for a moment. The disciples had just finished the last meal they would ever have with Jesus. During this most intimate time communing together, the Lord humbled Himself to the point of becoming a servant of His students. By doing this, by setting this example, Jesus gave to mankind the model and pattern of Christian leadership – a leadership that He expected of His disciples (soon to be Apostles) who would become the leaders of the Church and the greatest spiritual movement in history. This is why just mere minutes after Jesus washed their feet, He instructed them saying: “I am giving you a new commandment, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, that you also love one another” (Jn 13:34).
This is the “Mandate,” or the “Maundy” (derived from the Latin word “Mandatum”). So maundy is the actual mandate Jesus gave to us that we are to love one another in humility, and express that love as if we ourselves are servants of others, not the Lord over them, just as Jesus, who is truly Lord, did in the act of washing His students’ feet as a servant.
Christian Leadership is rooted in Christian love, and Christian love is the love that Jesus showed during Maundy Thursday. It is not a love that promotes itself; has to advocate for itself; or is centered on itself. Rather, Christian leadership, through Christian love, is a choice to stoop low and serve others, as if continually engaging (even symbolically) in the act of washing feet. The mandate we are given as Christians is to love every human being with the servant-type love of Jesus Christ Himself.
Maundy Thursday also reminds us of every day that the Lord lived among us. He not only washed feet, but He also embraced those whom society had refused to embrace (the Leper), drew near those whom society cast out (the prostitutes, destitute, tax collectors), raised up those whom society beat down (the woman caught in adultery), brought honor to those whom society dishonored (the poor), gave a voice to those whom society had silenced (women and children), and saved those whom society considered not savable (the repentant thief on the Cross).
Yes, this is the God we serve! And we are mandated by Him to love in this exact same manner.
“The Lord, having loved those who were His own, loved them to the end. Knowing that the hour had come to leave this world and return to the Father, in the course of a meal He washed their feet and gave them the Commandment of love. In order to leave them a pledge of this love … He instituted the Eucharist as the memorial of His death and Resurrection, and commanded His apostles to celebrate it until His return” -CCC 1337; cf. Jn 13:1-17, 34-35.
Today’s Suggested Penance
Make it your goal to love others as Jesus loved His disciples and became their servant. Ask yourself: Am I loving others (not just those whom I like) with the same love Jesus showed His disciples? Am I acting in humility, or in arrogance, towards those I do not like, or those that disagree with me? Am I humbling myself to the point that I will love and serve Peter the Denier, Thomas the Unbeliever, and even Judas the Betrayer?
Father in Heaven, thank You for sending Jesus to invite even us into Your house. Help us to extend the hospitality of love to all who are in need of being loved today. We pray that You will give us the grace to love like Christ loved His students – on this Maundy Thursday as well as every other day of our lives. In our own strength and goodness, we are unable to love like You loved; but with Your grace, Lord, we can do all the great things You have asked of us. We know we are unworthy of Your goodness, but we are so grateful for Your love and mercy that sustains us week after week. It is in Your good and holy Name we pray, amen.