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Holy Thursday 2022

Holy Thursday 2022

April 15, 2022

Chapter Talk – Holy Thursday – April 14, 2022

Today, Holy Thursday, which opens the Triduum, gives us two important rituals that reflect the heart and meaning of these holy days, these final days building towards Jesus’ death and resurrection.  These rituals are Jesus washing the feet of his disciples and Jesus offering his body and blood using the symbols of bread and wine.  Whatever angle one looks at these ‘sacraments’, clearly, they are an encounter of love, an encounter of mercy, an encounter of forgiveness, an encounter of a most complete self-gift that embodies God’s unconditional love.

“To be sowers of love just where we are” (Born From the Gaze of God, p.xiv).  These words of Br. Christophe root us in a particular place, in a community where we have planted our ‘yes’, a ‘yes’ that is given without full awareness of all that will be asked in terms of struggle and surrender, including all that will be given in terms of grace, Divine love and mercy.  ‘Sowing love’ does this not describe the purpose of our lives, especially if we call ourselves ‘Christian’?  Sowing love…and right here, ‘just where we are’.  This is no small thing…it is huge…imagine the rippling effect of one life living this way.  And then what if one whole community does this, not perfectly, but continuing to stretch forth in conversion, sowing seeds of love.

Pope Benedict XVI places the cross at the center of Jesus’ proclamation of the kingdom of God and thus in his teaching.  He writes that “Jesus’ message was shaped by the Cross from the outset” of his ministry.  And he adds: “Viewed through the lens of the Last Supper and the Resurrection, we could describe the Cross as the most radical expression of God’s unconditional love…” (Jesus of Nazareth Holy Week, p.123).  What is this saying to us?  What is it saying about the One whom we encounter day by day as we strive to ‘walk as he walked’?   Br. Christophe prays: “I exist as an ‘offering of love’” (Born From the Gaze of God, p.148).  Here, we witness the impact of Christophe’s encounter with Christ.  In a prayer encounter, he had a true, real meeting with Christ, and through the ‘encounter’, through this exchange of love, Christophe’s life is now irrevocably changed, his life has become an offering.  There is no turning back.  To exist as an ‘offering of love’ is the cross.  To pick up our cross and follow is an offering of love.  It begins in just this simple step.  To exist as an ‘offering of love’ and ‘to be sowers of love’ are profound images to describe what is at the heart of discipleship, of following the One who goes before us, and who ‘loves us to the end’. 

Walking with Jesus during this Holy Week brings us face to face with the demands of discipleship.  Jesus ‘loving us to the end’ elicits, in the words of Pope Francis, a parallel response very similar to that of Br. Christophe: “I am a mission on this earth; that is the reason why I am here in this world.  We have to regard ourselves as sealed, even branded, by this mission of bringing light, blessing, enlivening, raising up, healing and freeing” (The Joy of the Gospel, p.132).  We can not encounter Jesus without a willingness to surrender all.  Jesus’s kenosis, his self-emptying, asks our kenosis, our self-emptying…Jesus’ self-gift given for us and for all asks our gift of self.  Self-emptying, offering our lives, dying like a seed falling to the ground are all part of encountering Jesus during these holy days. And the life that emerges out of our self-gift is giving something of God’s life to our sisters and brothers.

In the gospel passage when Jesus is washing the feet of his disciples, what do we notice about the encounter that Jesus has with Peter?  What is the consciousness of Jesus and what is the consciousness of Peter?  If we ponder the text, we see that Peter is elevating Jesus: ‘Master are you going to wash my feet?’…And then: ‘You will never wash my feet’.  Jesus will not accept this old understanding.  He is bringing new wine, a new understanding of who God is combined with what it means to serve.  Jesus says: ‘What I am doing now you do not understand’.  And then, ‘Unless I wash you, you will have no inheritance with me’.  Jesus is never above anyone, he meets us face to face, heart to heart…he bends down to us with compassion, mercy, giving the gift of his self freely.  There is no ‘lording over’ anyone, no making himself better than anyone.  In washing his disciples’ feet, can we hear Jesus say: “Go and do likewise?”  Can we hear him say: ‘Be sowers of love’; or, ‘Let your life be an offering of love’; or, ‘Remember you are a mission on this earth’.  Out of the encounter with Jesus we are to do as he did – ‘loving to the end’, serving to the end.  We cannot do otherwise as we receive the gift of God’s very self in Christ.  ‘Giving myself to the end’…This is the Paschal mystery…out of the gift of self comes resurrected life.  Amen.

 Sr. Kathy DeVico, Abbess














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