Holy Week Meditations Maundy Thursday

Meditation on cup & bread, love & service

In the poor man who knocks at my door, in my ailing mother, the young man who seeks my advice, the Lord Himself is present: therefore let us wash His feet. — CS Lewis

Maundy Thursday’s Text — John 13:1-17, 31-35
13Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. 2The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper 3Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, 4got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. 5Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. 6He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” 7Jesus answered, “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” 8Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.” 9Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” 10Jesus said to him, “One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you.” 11For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, “Not all of you are clean.” 12After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? 13You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. 14So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. 16Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. 17If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.
Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. 32If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. 33Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ 34I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. 35By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Meditations on Bread, Cup and Service

Serving with Hands and Feet
 
Give your hands to serve and your hearts to love. — Mother Teresa 

It is hard to feel bad about yourself when you are doing something good for someone else. There are a lot of ways to lift your self-esteem, but making a positive difference in another’s life has got to be my best leadership guidance. Serving others and working to add value to them will lift your spirits in a way that nothing else will. Trust me on this one. — John C. Maxwell

Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them. — Dalai Lama

What people see you do may not be remembered; what they hear you say may be forgotten; but how they feel your intervention in their times of need will forever be remembered. ― Israelmore Ayivor
 
You never know when a helping hand will change another person’s entire life. — Zig Ziglar
 
Condemn none: if you can stretch out a helping hand, do so. If you cannot, fold your hands, bless your brothers, and let them go their own way. — Swami Vivekananda
 
The happiest people I’ve ever met, regardless of their profession, their social standing, or their economic status, are people that are fully engaged in the world around them. The most fulfilled people are the ones who get up every morning and stand for something larger than themselves. They are the people who care about others, who will extend a helping hand to someone in need or will speak up about an injustice when they see it. — Wilma Mankiller
 
We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility. It’s easy to say “It’s not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem.” Then there are those who see the need and respond. I consider those people my heroes. The highest test of the civilization of any race is in its willingness to extend a helping hand to the less fortunate. — Booker T. Washington
 
There are only four kinds of people in the world – those who have been caregivers, those who are caregivers, those who will be caregivers and those who will need caregivers. — Rosalynn Carter

Bread as Sacred Element

There are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread. ― Mahatma Gandhi

When I hold a piece of bread, I look at it, and sometimes I smile at it. The piece of bread is an ambassador of the cosmos offering nourishment and support. Looking deeply into the piece of bread, I see the sunshine, the clouds, the great earth. Without the sunshine, no wheat can grow. Without the clouds, there is no rain for the wheat to grow. Without the great earth, nothing can grow. That is why the piece of bread that I hold in my hand is a wonder of life. — Thich Nhat Hahn

There is more hunger for love and appreciation in this world than for bread. ― Mother Teresa

Bread for myself is a material question. Bread for my neighbor is a spiritual one. – Nikoli Berdyaev

Even in the inevitable moments when all seems hopeless, men know that without hope they cannot really live, and in agonizing desperation they cry for the bread of hope. — Martin Luther King, Jr

Jesus has made Himself the Bread of Life to give us life. Night and day, He is there. If you really want to grow in love, come back to the Eucharist, come back to that Adoration. — Mother Teresa

In biblical times, bread (“lechem”) was such an important element of the diet that sometimes the word was synonymous with food in general.* Indeed, the prophet Ezekiel imagines God’s meting out punishment by breaking the “staff of bread.”* Its importance helps explain why special grain offerings featuring cakes (unleavened) were offered as sacrifices in the Temple. Remnants of bread’s importance survive in that the blessing for bread retains its primacy in the hierarchy of food blessings and that full grace after meals (birkat ha-mazon) is not required unless bread has been eaten. — David Arnow

Bread is vital to Christians. It symbolizes the living presence of Jesus, reminds us of our need for divine and human nourishment, and reminds us of our obligation to alleviate the world’s hungers. — Mary Boys

Cup & Fruit of Vine as Sacred Element

We bear fruit not by squeezing it out of ourselves but because we are extensions of the vine, pruned by the gardener-God who wants us to be fruitful and to be drawn into the unity of the Father and Son. God’s love, presence, and pruning are gifts. But we do choose the abiding place of our soul. If we want to bear Jesus’ fruit, then we choose to abide in him, which we will learn in John 15:9 means to abide in his love. — Meda Stamper

This supernatural bread and this consecrated chalice are for the health and salvation of mankind. — Cyprian

In that first ‘fusion’ with Jesus (holy communion), it was my Heavenly Mother again who accompanied me to the altar for it was she herself who placed her Jesus into my soul. — Therese of Lisieux

Have a great love for Jesus in his divine Sacrament of Love; that is the divine oasis of the desert. It is the heavenly manna of the traveller. It is the Holy Ark. It is the life and Paradise of love on earth. — Peter Julian Eymard

Recognize in this bread what hung on the cross, and in this chalice what flowed from His side… whatever was in many and varied ways announced beforehand in the sacrifices of the Old Testament pertains to this one sacrifice which is revealed in the New Testament. — Saint Augustine

When we have been to Holy Communion, the balm of love envelops the soul as the flower envelops the bee. — John Vianney

I hunger for the bread of God, the flesh of Jesus Christ …; I long to drink of his blood, the gift of unending love. — Ignatius of Antioch
If we but paused for a moment to consider attentively what takes place in this Sacrament, I am sure that the thought of Christ’s love for us would transform the coldness of our hearts into a fire of love and gratitude. — Angela of Foligno

If you cannot find Christ in the beggar at the church door, you will not find Him in the chalice. — Saint John Chrysostom

Holy Week Meditation: Wed, Mar 31

Text for Wednesday: John 13:21-32 Jesus Foretells His Betrayal

21 After saying this Jesus was troubled in spirit, and declared, “Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me.” 22 The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he was speaking. 23 One of his disciples—the one whom Jesus loved—was reclining next to him; 24 Simon Peter therefore motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking. 25 So while reclining next to Jesus, he asked him, “Lord, who is it?” 26 Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.”[a] So when he had dipped the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas son of Simon Iscariot.[b] 27 After he received the piece of bread,[c] Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “Do quickly what you are going to do.” 28 Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him. 29 Some thought that, because Judas had the common purse, Jesus was telling him, “Buy what we need for the festival”; or, that he should give something to the poor. 30 So, after receiving the piece of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night.

Meditations on Trust & Betrayal

Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God. – Corie ten Boom

Trust starts with truth and ends with truth. — Santosh Kalwar

Trust but verify. – Ronald Reagan

Have enough courage to trust love one more time and always one more time. – Maya Angelou

Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

You must trust and believe in people or life becomes impossible. – Anton Chekhov

Trust is the fruit of a relationship in which you know you are loved. – William P. Young

We’re paying the highest tribute you can pay a man. We trust him to do right. It’s that simple. – Harper Lee

People that have trust issues only need to look in the mirror. There they will meet the one person that will betray them the most. – Shannon Adler

Trust is built with consistency. – Lincoln Chafee

Few things help an individual more than to place responsibility upon him, and to let him know that you trust him. – Booker T. Washington

Betrayal

“It was a mistake,” you said. But the cruel thing was, it felt like the mistake was mine, for trusting you. David Levithan

For there to be betrayal, there would have to have been trust first. Suzanne Collins

We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known, and when we honor the spiritual connection that grows from that offering with trust, respect, kindness and affection.

Love is not something we give or get; it is something that we nurture and grow, a connection that can only be cultivated between two people when it exists within each one of them – we can only love others as much as we love ourselves.

Shame, blame, disrespect, betrayal, and the withholding of affection damage the roots from which love grows. Love can only survive these injuries if they are acknowledged, healed and rare. Brené Brown

To me, the thing that is worse than death is betrayal. You see, I could conceive death, but I could not conceive betrayal. Malcolm X

I’m not really sure why. But… do you stop loving someone just because they betray you? I don’t think so. That’s what makes the betrayal hurt so much – pain, frustration, anger… and I still loved … Brandon Sanderson

Commentary on Judas:

“One of the things that might set Judas apart from the rest of Jesus’s disciples is that Judas is not from Galilee. Jesus is from the northern part of Israel, or Roman Palestine. But [Judas’s] surname might be evidence that he’s from the southern part of the country, meaning he may be a little bit of an outsider.” — Robert Cargill Alternatively, others have suggested that the name Iscariot identified Judas with the Sicarii, or “dagger-men,” a group of Jewish rebels who opposed the Roman occupation and committed acts of terrorism circa A.D. 40-50 on behalf of their nationalist cause. But there’s nothing in the Bible to link Judas to the Sicarii, and they were known to be active only after his death. — History Channel

Judas was an ultimate tragedy—probably the greatest tragedy that ever lived. He is the perfect and prime example of what it means to have opportunity and then lose it. He becomes all the more terrible because of the glorious beginnings he had. Judas followed the same Christ as the others. For three years, day in and day out, he occupied himself with Jesus Christ. He saw the same miracles; heard the same words; performed some of the same ministries; was esteemed in the same way the other disciples were—yet he did not become what the others became. In fact, he became the very opposite. — John MacArthur

‘… when He had dipped the morsel, He took and gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot”.’ Jesus’ answer to Peter and John was really a final appeal of love to Judas. “The morsel” was a piece broken from some of the unleavened cakes that would be on the table as a part of the Passover feast. Also on the table would be a dish called cheshireth, filled with bitter herbs; vinegar; salt; and mashed fruit, consisting of dates, figs, raisins, and water—all mixed together into a pasty substance. They would eat it with the unleavened bread like a dip. It was very special for the host to dip a morsel into the cheshireth and give it to the guest of honor. And Jesus, kindly, in a gesture of love toward Judas, dipped the morsel and gave it to Judas, as if Judas were the guest of honor. One would think that all Jesus had done for Judas that night would have broken his heart, but it didn’t. Judas was an apostate. His heart was hardened, and nothing Jesus could do for him would break it. — John MacArthur

But the name “Judas” became synonymous with treachery in various languages, and Judas Iscariot would be portrayed in Western art and literature as the archetypal traitor and false friend. Dante’s Inferno famously doomed Judas to the lowest circle in Hell, while painters like Giotto and Caravaggio, among others, immortalized the traitorous “Judas kiss” in their iconic works. — History Channel

Alternate Perspective from Gospel of Judas (Gnostic Gospel, 280CE)

Jesus utters his most startling instruction … “For you will sacrifice the man who clothes me” … Judas will carry out the sacrifice that truly counts, the sacrifice that will result in salvation: He will sacrifice the physical body of Jesus, thus allowing Jesus to complete his mission. In this way, Judas does indeed become the greatest of the disciples… There is no mention of a trial, execution, or resurrection. The Gospel of Judas has related what it wanted to relate: The obedience of Judas and how that obedience assisted Jesus in fulfilling his salvific mission. Judas has been transformed from villain to hero, from traitor to saint.
     The Gospel of Judas makes a meaningful contribution to our understanding of second-century Christianity, especially with regard to the question of diversity. We have here what may be a very early exemplar of Sethian Gnosticism, a form of Gnosticism that may have roots in Jewish pessimism that emerged in the aftermath of the disastrous wars in 66-70 and 115-117.8
 
     It is highly unlikely that the Gospel of Judas preserves for us authentic, independent material, material that supplements our knowledge of Judas and his relationship to Jesus … dismisses the Gospel of Judas as having no value for understanding the historical Judas. — National Geographic

Tuesday of Holy Week

A Seed grows with no sound but a tree falls with huge noise. Destruction has noise, but creation it quiet. This is the power of silence. Grow silently. — Unattributed

Text for Tuesday: John 12:20-36

20 Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. 21 They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” 22 Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. 23 Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25 Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.

Jesus Speaks about His Death27 “Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say—‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” 29 The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” 30 Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. 31 Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people[a] to myself.” 33 He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die. 34 The crowd answered him, “We have heard from the law that the Messiah[b] remains forever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?” 35 Jesus said to them, “The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, so that the darkness may not overtake you. If you walk in the darkness, you do not know where you are going. 36 While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of light.”

Meditations on a Falling Seed:

A seed neither fears light nor darkness, but uses both to grow.” ― Matshona Dhliwayo
 
Anyone can count the seeds in an apple, but only God can count the number of apples in a seed. — Robert H. Schuller

The greater part of our happiness or misery depends on our dispositions and not on our circumstances. We carry the seeds of the one or the other about with us in our minds wherever we go. — Martha Washington
 
We know we cannot plant seeds with closed fists. To sow, we must open our hands. — Adolfo Perez Esquivel

Monday of Holy Week: After Palm Sunday and During Passover

Extravagance. Pleasure. Effusiveness. Exuberance. These aren’t ideas that we usually associate with Lent and the overture to Jesus’ passion. But Mary of Bethany understands differently. — Matt Skinner

Have you ever seen or experienced someone physically caring for a loved one in preparation for that dying person’s death? — Edward F. Markquart

***

Text: John 12:1-11 — Mary Anoints Jesus
12 Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them[a] with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii[b] and the money given to the poor?” (He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) Jesus said, “Leave her alone. She bought it[c] so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.”

Meditations for Monday and the events of Holy Week:

“Is it not true that only when we have been helped by God, that we begin to understand how to live extravagantly in honouring Christ wherever we may find him?” — Peter Woods

So what is it about Mary’s extravagance that merits Jesus’s blessing, and what is it about Judas’s criticism that earns Jesus’s rebuke?  Mary responds to the call of love in the moment.  In the now.  Knowing what Jesus is about to face; knowing that he’s in urgent need of companionship, comfort, and solace; knowing that the time is short to express all the gratitude and affection she carries in her heart, Mary acts. Given the choice between an abstracted need (the poor “out there”) and the concrete need that presents itself at her own doorstep, around her own dinner table, Mary chooses the here and now.  She loves the body and soul who is placed in her presence.  In doing so, she ends up caring for the one who is denied room at the inn — even to be born.  For the one who has no place to lay his head during his years of ministry.  For the one whose crucified body is laid in a borrowed tomb.  In other words, it is the poor Mary serves when she serves Jesus.  Just as it is always Jesus we serve when we love without reservation what God places in front of us, here and now. Lutheran minister Reagan Humber puts it this way: “What won’t always be with us is the opportunity to see God in whatever and whomever stands in front of us right now.  The kingdom of God is here.  Right now is the moment when God can break our hearts.  The love of God is the grace of now.” — Debie Thomas

“If we want to dialogue with the Scriptures, we must expose ourselves to the political, social, economic, cultural, and religious situations of the ancient world where the writings were born and where the people did not necessarily enjoy peace and justice.” — Hisako Kinukawa

“Remember finally, that the ashes that were on your forehead are created from the burnt palms of last Palm Sunday. New beginnings invariably come from old false things that are allowed to die.” — Richard Rohr

“No pain, no palm; no thorns, no throne; no gall, no glory; no cross, no crown.” — William Penn

Compassionate Pedicure Scene from On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous: A Novel — Ocean Vuong

A prosthesis. Halfway down her shinbone, a brownish stub protrudes, smooth and round as the end of a baguette—or what it is, an amputated leg. I glance at you, hoping for an answer. Without skipping a beat, you take out your file and start to scrub her one foot, the puckered nub beside it shaking from the work. The woman places the prosthesis at her side, her arm resting protectively around its calf, then sits back, exhaling. “Thank you,” she says again, louder, to the crown of your head. 

I sit on the carpet and wait for you to call for the hot towel from the warming case. Throughout the pedicure, the woman sways her head from side to side, eyes half-closed. She moans with relief when you massage her one calf. When you finish, turning to me for the towel, she leans over, gestures toward her right leg, the nub hovering above the water, dry this whole time. She says, “Would you mind,” and coughs into her arm. “This one also. If it’s not too much.” She pauses, stares out the window, then down at her lap. Again, you say nothing—but turn, almost imperceptibly, to her right leg, run a measured caress along the nub’s length, before cradling a handful of warm water over the tip, the thin streams crisscrossing the leathered skin. Water droplets. When you’re almost done rinsing the soap off, she asks you, gently, almost pleading, to go lower. “If it’s the same price anyway,” she says. “I can still feel it down there. It’s silly, but I can. I can.” 

You pause—a flicker across your face. Then, the crow’s-feet on your eyes only slightly starker, you wrap your fingers around the air where her calf should be, knead it as if it were fully there. You continue down her invisible foot, rub its bony upper side before cupping the heel with your other hand, pinching along the Achilles’ tendon, then stretching the stiff cords along the ankle’s underside. When you turn to me once more, I run to fetch a towel from the case. Without a word, you slide the towel under the phantom limb, pad down the air, the muscle memory in your arms firing the familiar efficient motions, revealing what’s not there, the way a conductor’s movements make the music somehow more real. Her foot dry, the woman straps on her prosthesis, rolls down her pant leg, and climbs off. I grab her coat and help her into it. You start walking over to the register when she stops you, places a folded hundred-dollar bill in your palm.

— Ocean Vuong

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