Theme: Living in Communion with the New Commandment

Ex. 12:1-8. 11-14

Ps 116:12-13. 15 and 16bc. 17-18 (R. 1 Cor. 10:16)

1 Cor. 11:23-26

Jn. 13:1-15

Jesus in tonight’s liturgy gives us a mandate (mandatum) to love one another and live in communion with one another: “A new commandment I give to you, says the Lord, that you love one another even as I have loved you” (Verse before the Gospel Jn. 13: 34). This New Commandment or mandatum is depicted in the three vital aspects of the Holy Thursday liturgy. Jesus instituted the sacraments of the Holy Eucharist, Holy Orders and a ‘sacrament of love’ which is not a sacrament per se. Jesus calls us to live this mandate of fraternal charity in our homes and societies. The readings of the evening reflect the love in communion and sharing ourselves with one another.

Maundy Thursday from the “mandatum novum…a mandate” (Jn. 13:34) initiates the whole Church into the Easter Triduum, the period which commemorates the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Holy Thursday is the gateway to Good Friday and Holy Saturday and the Triduum ends on the evening of Easter. The Church calls on us to celebrate the love of God, the ‘hour’ Jesus brings for our transformation and communion with one another.

The first reading talks about the way the Israelites are to eat the Passover meal (Ex. 12:1-8. 11-14). The Passover celebrated by the people of the old covenant is symbolic of the real body and blood that Jesus institutes in the Last Supper of tonight. The Israelites of old are to eat the Passover meal as a household, a kind of communion and one striking feature of this meal is that “…and you shall eat it in haste.” This contrasts that which Jesus Christ celebrated and instituted for the apostles and for that matter the tradition we have received as St. Paul talks about in the first lines of the second reading (1 Cor. 11:23). The Church becomes a haven for communion that members must show love and fraternal charity. But as Keith Mathison writes, the Eucharist has become The Meal That Divides. The fraternity that Jesus prays for “that they may all be one” (Jn. 17:21) is not clearly seen in our Churches today. The Church has rather become a haven for rifts of social classes, hatred, jealousy, anger, tribal fights, unhealthy controversies, etc.

The Lord calls us today to an HOUR of “departing” and of “the love that reaches to the end (agápē).” (Jn 13:1-2) We are also called to this HOUR which is a time of complete transformation for us. We should turn away from ways and practices that will not augur well with our Christian life. And we have to embrace a love which the Lord shows us in the washing of feet of his apostles. This life is that which empties one to love the other without any gain. Jesus shows us a sign of humility that surpasses all. Jesus as a servant washed the feet of his apostles as practiced by the Orientals in the ancient times. According to this tradition of washing of feet, in the case of ordinary people, the host provided the water and the guests washed their own feet. But in richer houses, the washing was done by a slave and it was the lowliest of all services. Jesus washed the feet of the disciples. Jesus asked the disciples “…you also ought to wash one another’s feet.” This is a clarion for us to be humble and live in communion with one another.

May the example of our teacher and Lord show us the way to love one another without any reservations.  May this new commandment bring us into an hour of transformation so that we can live together as brothers and sisters in the Church.

By Michael Selasi Combey