Maundy Thursday – Finding a place for women at the last supper.

Maundy Thursday – Finding a place for women at the last supper.

Six days before the Passover, Jesus was in the house of Martha, Lazarus and Mary in Bethany. If you walked down the Golden Gate that was attached to the temple (now sealed) and walked into and out of the Kidron valley you would arrive at the Mount of Olives on which is situated the garden of Gethsemane. Just over the mountain was Bethany. It is here that Jesus often found rest among friends.

John 12:2 tells us that on this occasion, Lazarus was present and so was Martha who was serving (that seems to always be her preoccupation). Also in the house was Mary and once again we find her at the feet of Jesus. I am not going to disparage work over worship but perhaps we see too little of ‘sitting at his feet’ over ‘serving at his table.’

Mary pours a pound of pure nard on his feet and wipes it with her hair. It was not uncommon for someone’s feet to be washed. This Roman culture had been well incorporated out of sheer necessity into Judean living. But on this occasion, the actions of Mary have to be seen as an act of supreme love that must have surely made a deep impact on the life of Jesus. This was something that he must have remembered fondly.

Six days later at the Passover, Jesus was down on his knees doing the unimaginable. Jesus took the role of a slave when he washed the feet of one who would betray, the other who would deny and nine who would desert him. Only John stood by the foot of the cross. It is no wonder that he richly deserves the title, ‘the one whom Jesus loved.’

I want to throw in a wild card here; a thought that may be pure conjecture but worth a pastoral implication. What if Jesus was so deeply struck by the act of love that Mary performed six days ago, that he felt prompted to do the same? Jesus did not use pure nard, just a towel and water but the extravagance of love cannot be lost on us considering whose feet he washed.

Like Mary, whose actions were seen as scandalous, the act of washing his disciple’s feet was seen as scandalous. Yet he did it for love’s sake, the same love that prompted Mary’s actions. It was meant to be a ripple effect; Mary, Jesus, you and me. Jesus said it in no uncertain terms, “If I then, your Lord and Master have washed your feet, you should wash each other’s feet.” Women create beautiful ripples that we need to acknowledge and commemorate.

The action of Mary of Bethany was not just driven by love but her actions inadvertently said much more when she ‘anointed’ his feet. The word Messiah means ‘the anointed one.’ Here was the anointed one being anointed by a woman. Mary did not anoint him with a title but anointed him for his burial. (John 12:7)

Permit yourself this pastoral luxury for once, without letting your theology scream blue murder at you. Think about it, It was a woman who had the privilege of ‘anointing’ the lord before his death. She administered the ‘anointing’ (I am not calling it a sacrament). Guess what, the role of women did not end there. To the one man who stood at the foot of the cross there were several women, to the many men who abandoned the lord there were the women of Jerusalem mourning unabashedly on the via dolorosa and it was to a woman that the Lord will first appear at his resurrection.

Yes, there was no seat assigned for a woman at the last supper but that does not mean there was no place in the heart of Jesus for them.

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2 thoughts on “Maundy Thursday – Finding a place for women at the last supper.”

  • Salvador Fernandes · Edit

    It was also The Woman, who first met the Risen Lord (An apostle to the apostles) as she was sent to them with the glad tidings of Him having Risen.

    I often feel that Our women are more religious and holy, and it is a good thing, for they are the first Catechist to their children

  • Maria Ana da Costa · Edit

    An interesting thought, Fr, about Mary’s anointing of Jesus’ feet having a ripple effect. Makes sense. Hope all of us, Catholics, can respond to this effect in service of those around us.


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