Sacred Tridum – Maundy Thursday – John 13:1-15
Even though it is called the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, there is no reference to the meal per se in the choice of this text. John is the only gospel, among the four, that focuses on the foot washing. The meal becomes the setting for the foot washing of His disciples; a meal in which He institutes the Eucharist, institutes the commandment of love, ‘to do as He has done,’ and institutes the priesthood through the foot washing ritual and a pastoral commandment to the eleven ‘newly ordained ministers’.
Interestingly, unlike the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke), John holds that Jesus died on the ‘day of preparation’. This is the day when the lambs were sacrificed in the temple and this is the day for John on which Jesus, ‘the Lamb of God’ dies on Calvary.
Now before you start getting uppity and wondering how the gospels can be giving us ‘contradictory’ evidences, remember what the Gospel’s were meant to be; not biographies! The Gospels are post resurrection narratives, written by the evangelists in the context of their communities, to whom they were writing for.
So in John’s Gospel, the Jewish Passover takes place on what we celebrate as ‘Holy Saturday’. Not so for Luke or Mark. For them, Jesus celebrates the Jewish Passover on Maundy Thursday (Mark 14: 12-15, Luke 22:15). Is there a point to why John in his gospel does this?
Some scholars opine that John wanted the death of Jesus to coincide directly with the day of the preparation of the Passover. While the lambs were being sacrificed in the temple, Jesus is sacrificed for us. Others believe that John’s community had simply come to accept that Jesus was crucified on the 14th day of Nissan (the first month of the Jewish year) which was the day of Passover (references from the JBC).
So what does that make Maundy Thursday in the eyes of John’s community? It is a significant meal of love that Jesus has with His disciples. But at this meal He also teaches us to be servants who serve, not masters who rule. He institutes the priesthood when He tells Peter, ‘if I do not wash you, you can have no share with me’; for He shares his priesthood with the twelve.
For John, this is not a Passover meal; rather the opportunity to start something new. He begins with a ‘new commandment’ which gives us a ‘way of being’. Jesus gives us a new ‘way of thinking’, when He washes the disciple’s feet. No self-respecting master would ever do that, but that’s Jesus’ point. The disciples must think differently, think service.
For John, this is a love meal (agape) where Jesus sets the example of love and humility. The mandatum or command is to do as He has done. John wants us to see more than just the ‘last supper’; He wants us to remember this love fest as the ‘first day of a new commandment.’
Written on behalf of the Holy Spirit
Thankful for the gift of the priesthood, for the commandment to love and the privilege to celebrate the Eucharist.
Happy feast to my brother priests.
Fr Warner D’Souza may be contacted on whatsap on +91- 9820242151.
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