A reflection for Maundy Thursday

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A reflection for Maundy Thursday by Canon Celia

Tonight, in normal circumstances, we would be gathering together in the wondrous Quire of our Cathedral to remember Jesus gathering with his friends over his final meal with them. How different it will be for us today. For those living on their own it may be many weeks before a meal can be shared with anyone else; for families there can be no wider gatherings tonight or at Easter, only the marking of events of Jesus’ passion and resurrection as best we can in our own homes.

Jesus was born a Jew. The weekly Sabbath meal at home and the annual Passover celebration would have been an inherent part of his life. We know from all four gospel writers the importance of this particular Passover meal in Jerusalem around the year 30 AD.

Matthew, Mark and Luke tell us about Jesus sharing bread and wine with his friends, what we call the Institution of the Eucharist: “Do this in remembrance of me”. In John’s gospel we hear nothing about bread and wine; instead we hear of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples.  And later, he gives them a new commandment:  “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you”.  In Latin this is ‘mandatum novum’, hence Maundy Thursday, the day of the commandment.

In one way this was not a new commandment at all. Love of God and neighbour, as Jesus had taught and shown, is at the heart of faith. The new aspect was to love each other, the fellow citizens of the kingdom of God, their co-members of the body of Christ “as I have loved you”.  They would learn what that meant in the events of the next three days, the self-sacrificing love of the Son of Man: “unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies it remains just a single grain; but if it dies it will bear much fruit”.

Jesus was preparing the disciples for the daunting task of carrying on his mission in the world. Love is the only mortar which can hold people together in the face of the trials which they would face.

Though we cannot gather together this Maundy Thursday, we can continue to love one another and to pray for those who are daily acting out the new commandment in their care of the sick, the provision of our meals at home, volunteering, and in working to keep our infrastructure going.

An Upper Room did our Lord prepare
for those he loved until the end:
And his disciples still gather there,
to celebrate their Risen Friend.

A lasting gift Jesus gave his own,
to share his bread, his loving cup.
Whatever burdens bow us down,
he by his Cross shall lift us up.   

F. Pratt Green


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