Maundy Thursday 2018

"At the moment you do not know what I am doing, but later you will understand." Simon Peter had questioned Jesus, "Lord, are you going to wash my feet?" The Bible is full of people who ask God why and how: Mary at the Annunciation, "How can this be?" or Moses before the burning bush, "What shall I say?" Throughout the Exodus, the Israelites kept on complaining against Moses and Aaron, "Why did you bring us out of Egypt to this place, where there is neither food nor water?" At the time they did not know what God was doing, but later, in the Promised Land, they could to look back and begin to understand. They celebrated the Passover to show that they understood God's plan and this understanding brought with it repentance and thanksgiving.

At the Last Supper, the disciples couldn't follow what Jesus was doing. What did he mean when he said, "This is my body; this cup is the new covenant in my blood," when all they could taste and see was bread and wine? And all this talk of a Paraclete, who would lead them to the whole truth and give them power from on high? Now, at the end of the meal, here he was, washing their feet and telling them to follow his example. What could this mean?

Caiaphas and Pilate, the High Priests and the Pharisees, the Roman authorities, the soldiers and the crowds, even Simon Peter and Judas and the other disciples, all those involved in the Passion, Crucifixion and Death of Jesus, what could they have understood at the time? Jesus alone knew that his hour had come. Only later did they understand, beginning surprisingly enough with the good thief, who said, "Remember me when you come into your kingdom," and the soldier, a Gentile, who was first to declare, "Truly, this was the Son of God".

After the Resurrection the disciples did begin to understand, but they weren't easily convinced. Only at Pentecost were their eyes opened at last. Finally, they understood that he was Lord and Christ, the Saviour of the world and this understanding led them to repentance and thanksgiving and the urge to preach the Gospel. That is why we still celebrate Holy Week and Easter, why we celebrate the sacraments and come to church. Christians have come to understand, as far as we are able, the mystery of the Incarnation and of God's ineffable love for Man.

Tonight's celebration reminds us that Christ wants us to follow his example. He wants us to show how perfect our love is. He wants us to serve others with humility and charity. He wants us to sacrifice our lives for others and not count the cost. We, of course, understand all this, but do we have the faith to do what Jesus asks of us? Have you ever thought what the world would be like if Christians were simply to follow the example of Jesus? Mind you, if you take up your cross every day and follow him, don't be surprised if in the end you are crucified. "I have given you an example so that you may copy what I have done to you."

In the Ambrosian Rite there is a beautiful chant that is sung after the proclamation of the Gospel this evening. It says, "Today, Son of the Eternal God, you receive me as a friend at your wondrous banquet. I will not hand over your mystery to the unworthy nor will I kiss and betray you like Judas, but I implore you, like the thief on the cross, to receive me, Lord, into your kingdom." Let us make this our prayer tonight.