“Unless I wash you, you have no part with Me.” John 13:8b
This passage is the basis of Maundy Thursday, the least understood but surely the most intimate of the Paschal Triduum (the three days of Easter). Most people, even non-Christians have heard of Good Friday and Easter, the last two days of the Triduum. But most people don’t know much about this important Thursday observance.
Maundy Thursday come from “mandatum novum” (new commandment, Latin), referring to John 13. Jesus was hosting a meal, known as the Last Supper, for His disciples. In the middle of the meal, Jesus got up from the meal, wrapped a towel around His waist and proceeded to wash the feet of His disciples. He ends His loving act by giving the new mandate to love one another.
Perhaps Maundy Thursday is not on our radar because, let’s be honest, who wants to be reminded that Jesus humbled Himself to do the task of a slave? To be sure, we want to celebrate Him as the risen King and Lord of creation. Who wants to be reminded that Jesus lived out the truth of His teaching, “the first must be the last,” and even today, He is willing to touch us where we are the most vulnerable and wash us where the “dirt” in our lives can’t be seen. Who wants to be reminded of the offensive in our lives at all? Who among us does not want to shy away from being intimately seen and known in our most wounded self by another?
Peter balked at Jesus’ action, but Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with Me.” In other words, “Unless you let Me do this, unless you let Me humble Myself, unless you let Me embrace you in your shame, you cannot truly share My life, My mission and My love.” If we don’t let Jesus into our lives where we are most vulnerable, ashamed and broken, we don’t let Jesus into our lives at all.
We learn from Jesus’ action that God’s love is unconditional. And we, who share in His life and are followers of Jesus, are called to love and serve others in the same way; unconditionally. In order for us to love and serve others unconditionally, we must first receive Jesus’s unconditional love and humble service.