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Holy Thursday

Holy Thursday

May 15, 2015

Jesus is the focus of these holy days…his final days: the One who was…the One who is…the One who is to be…who is to be more in each of our lives.  The prayer, the rituals, the liturgy will bring us not just a remembrance, but a new, living encounter, “an encounter with God’s love” to use the words of Pope Francis (The Joy of the Gospel, p.4).  And this encounter, if we meet it in faith, will liberate us from our narrowness (p.4) into a heart more expansive in mercy, love and forgiveness.
In and through this “renewed encounter” (p.4) with Jesus we meet the paschal mystery, which is the paradigm of Christian faith, the paradigm of life born out of death.  Our hope roots itself in this fundamental reality.  To emphasize the importance of the paschal mystery, the author Fr. Christian Salenson writes: “The Second Vatican Council had the audacity to affirm that the paschal mystery, which is the heart of the Christian faith, is possibly lived by every human being” (Talk given: June 1, 2014, p.1).  And then Salenson adds that the paschal mystery is “confessed by Christians as an experience of God” (p.1).  To meet Jesus, to live our paschal moments is to experience Divine life and love.
Today, Holy Thursday, we are given two rituals with very rich symbols: the washing of the feet of the disciples by Jesus and then the sacrament of the Eucharist where Jesus offers his body and blood ‘for the life of the world’, that is for you, for me.  We are given a gift and as we receive the gift of God we are nourished and strengthened.  Indeed, we are moved by such an immense gift of Love, that we, in turn, are so motivated by this Love, that we are ready to go forth offering ourselves…however called…however asked, in small ways mostly, sometimes in larger ways…no matter.  What is important to underline is that it is God’s ‘antecedent’ love that we, in offering our very selves, are responding to.  The washing of the feet and the Eucharist embody, communicate simply and powerfully this antecedent love of God.
Both of these rituals happen in the context of community…what could be the significance of this?  Br. Christophe in his journal wrote the following entry in 1994.  He begins by quoting from an article titled, “The Art of Remaining Standing”:  “By simply remaining standing, I face calmly what I do not know, and I prepare to confront this unknown….But to be able to do that, one needs strength; and the individual has only got this strength as long as he does not separate his own destiny from that of others, as long as he does not lose sight of the essential and retains a deep awareness of belonging to a community” (Born From the Gaze of God, p.49).  Br. Christophe then adds: “Indeed, and when Peter said: ‘I’m not one of them,’ he lost that strength and became a traitor, while Mary—with the other women and the beloved disciple—remained standing” (p.49).  It is the same for us, is it not?  When we separate ourselves, when we separate our life from that of others, when we lose sight of the essential and disconnect from community, then we become overpowered by our fears…our sense of the ‘other’ and of the essential is gone (at least for the moment) and we like Peter can betray this life that God has entrusted us with.  Peter falls: he falls into his fears, into a self-absorption, which places only himself at the center, and, which in the end, separates him from his sisters and brothers.  Peter falls, the cock crows: he then remembers what Jesus said, he weeps, his heart is broken opened yet again.  However, he does not give up, he is humbled and emerges from this trial stronger, more connected to community and to the essential having learned something important…and now he will go the full way.
A number of months ago I read a simple, poignant phrase from 2 Corinthians 1:18.  St. Paul says, “in him it is always ‘yes’”.  In Jesus it is always ‘yes’.  If we follow his ministry from the beginning with his baptism to its culmination during this Holy Week we do indeed see that Jesus was so connected to God…so committed to doing the will of God that no matter where his Abba led him…no matter what was asked…his response was to put God’s will at the center and to say ‘yes’ to it.  Jesus knew inside and out that to be God’s love, to offer his body and blood for us all asked this full commitment, this total ‘yes’ to God moment within moment.  There is no ambivalence in Jesus’ faith…that does not mean Jesus did not struggle: ‘Abba, that this cup would pass me by…but not my will, your will be done.’  I think it is helpful to see these days as the culmination of Jesus’ ‘yes’.  Jesus’ essence was always a ‘yes’ to God.

And for us: the art of remaining standing!  It is the art of fidelity, of living our ‘yes’, our love to the end, remembering we stand on God’s unwavering covenant of love: ‘my love for you will never leave you’…This art of remaining standing withour faith, this art of witnessing to God’s love is lived, realized in the context of community.  How important to remember the so many others who are on this same journey, the so many who have gone before us, and who stand with us, each of us, right now.  The art of remaining standing, upright in the joy of the gospel, happy to serve, privileged to be given the opportunity to live as one follower among many this life with God…this life that involves suffering, but suffering that yields to love, mercy, new life, risen life.  To be witnesses to the love of God, to the gospel way is to continue the work of incarnation: of bringing peace and healing into a world so torn apart right now…so in need of the witness of a committed community…a body of living Love, a body of forgiving Love, a body of persons ready to turn the other cheek and to meet violence with a disarmed heart that pours out the Love that we are loved with…the Love that is Jesus, the Love that is at the center of Jesus’ final Pasch.

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