Holy Thursday (April 18): Jesus’ supreme humility and unfailing love
Gospel Reading: John 13:1-15 (alternate reading for Holy Thursday chrism liturgy: Luke 4:16-21)
1 Now before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. 2 And during supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray him, 3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, 4 rose from supper, laid aside his garments, and girded himself with a towel. 5 Then he poured water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which he was girded.
6 He came to Simon Peter; and Peter said to him, "Lord, do you wash my feet?" 7 Jesus answered him, "What I am doing you do not know now, but afterward you will understand." 8 Peter said to him, "You shall never wash my feet." Jesus answered him, "If I do not wash you, you have no part in me." 9 Simon Peter said to him, "Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!" 10 Jesus said to him, "He who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but he is clean all over; and you are clean, but not every one of you." 11 For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, "You are not all clean."
12 When he had washed their feet, and taken his garments, and resumed his place, he said to them, "Do you know what I have done to you? 13 You call me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.
Old Testament Reading: Exodus 12:1-8,11-14
1 The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, 2 "This month shall be for you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year for you. 3 Tell all the congregation of Israel that on the tenth day of this month they shall take every man a lamb according to their fathers' houses, a lamb for a household; 4 and if the household is too small for a lamb, then a man and his neighbor next to his house shall take according to the number of persons; according to what each can eat you shall make your count for the lamb. 5 Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male a year old; you shall take it from the sheep or from the goats; 6 and you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month, when the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill their lambs in the evening.
7 Then they shall take some of the blood, and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat them. 8 They shall eat the flesh that night, roasted; with unleavened bread and bitter herbs they shall eat it. 11 In this manner you shall eat it: your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it in haste. It is the LORD's passover. 12 For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will smite all the first-born in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the LORD. 14 "This day shall be for you a memorial day, and you shall keep it as a feast to the LORD; throughout your generations you shall observe it as an ordinance for ever.
Meditation: Does your love waver when you encounter bitter disappointments and injury from others? As Jesus' hour of humiliation draws near he reveals to his disciples the supreme humility which shaped the love he had for them. He stoops to perform a menial task reserved for servants - the washing of smelly, dirty feet. In stooping to serve his disciples Jesus knew he would be betrayed by one of them and that the rest would abandon him through fear and disloyalty. Such knowledge could have easily led to bitterness or hatred. Jesus met the injury of betrayal and disloyalty with the greatest humility and supreme love.
Let the love of Christ rule in your heart and actions Jesus loved his disciples to the very end, even when they failed him and forsook him. The Lord loves each of us freely and unconditionally. His love has power to set us free to love and serve others with Christ-like compassion and humility. Paul the Apostle tells us that Christ's gift of love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us (Romans 5:5 and 8:35-39). Does the love of Christ rule in your heart, thoughts, intentions and actions?
The love of Christ conquers all and never fails Saint Augustine of Hippo (354-430 AD) in his sermon for Holy Thursday wrote:
"He had the power of laying down his life; we by contrast cannot choose the length of our lives, and we die even if it is against our will. He, by dying, destroyed death in himself; we are freed from death only in his death. His body did not see corruption; our body will see corruption and only then be clothed through him in incorruption at the end of the world. He needed no help from us in saving us; without him we can do nothing. He gave himself to us as the vine to the branches; apart from him we cannot have life."Lord Jesus, your love conquers all and never fails. Help me to love others freely, with heart-felt compassion, kindness and goodness. Where there is injury, may I sow peace rather than strife."
Finally, even if brothers die for brothers, yet no martyr by shedding his blood brings forgiveness for the sins of his brothers, as Christ brought forgiveness to us. In this he gave us, not an example to imitate but a reason for rejoicing. Inasmuch, then, as they shed their blood for their brothers, the martyrs provided "the same kind of meal" as they had received at the Lord's table. Let us then love one another as Christ also loved us and gave himself up for us."
Psalm 116:12-13, 16-18
12 What shall I render to the LORD for all his bounty to me? 13 I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD, 15 Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints. 16 O LORD, I am your servant; I am your servant, the son of your handmaid. You have loosed my bonds. 17 I will offer to you the sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the LORD. 18 I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people.
A Daily Quote for Lent: Christ chose to be a servant who offered himself for us, by Augustine of Hippo, 354-430 A.D.
"Even though the man Christ Jesus, in the form of God together with the Father with whom He is one God, accepts our sacrifice, nonetheless He has chosen in the form of a servant to be the sacrifice rather than accept it. Therefore, He is the priest Himself Who presents the offering, and He Himself is what is offered." (excerpt from City of God, 10,20)
Scripture quotations from Common Bible: Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 1973, and Ignatius Edition of the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 2006, by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Citation references for quotes from the writings of the early church fathers can be found here.