Hi friends and welcome to the Arise, Beloved blog. We have an amazing team of writers behind this blog and our desire is to speak truth into the lies that cripple us and shine light into the darkness that isolates us because we believe that now, more than ever, the Church desperately needs women to be restored so that the world can be set ablaze. Our hope is that you find comfort, solace, and peace in knowing that you are not alone, you are not too far gone and there is ALWAYS hope to be found.
Today, on this beautiful Holy Thursday, I’d like to take a moment to enter into the footsteps of Jesus and His Disciples. Holy Week calls us to pause and reflect on what really happened those two thousand years ago and meditate on why the Church finds it significant to recount every year. I invite you to place yourself in the story and in the beauty of this one day that we now revere as Holy Thursday.
Let’s start by putting ourselves in Jerusalem two thousand years ago. It’s a bustling hot day and people are swarming the market and city rushing to get all the necessary items for the Passover. Passover was always the most important day for the Jewish Religion, it recounts the first Passover that took place in Egypt where God delivered and the Israelites from slavery and saved them from the many plagues. The ceremony requires a lot of preparation and so there is always so much to be done. The Disciples are out amongst the crowd, gathering the necessary items Jesus told them to find for the Passover that they were to celebrate together. Jesus had already made them aware that this was to be a very significant night for him as well as them and therefore He left them in charge of gathering the supplies as well as finding a place to celebrate. Imagine the pressure to find a suitable place, but the Lord had encouraged them earlier saying, “Behold when you have entered the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you; follow him into the house which he enters, and the householder, The Teacher says to you, where is the guest room, where I am to eat the Passover with my disciples? And he will show you a large upper room furnished, there make ready” (Luke 22:10-12). Of course, the God of heaven and earth knew exactly where they were going to celebrate the Passover, but imagine the look on Peter and John’s faces when He said this to them! I know the most puzzling and quizzical look would have crossed my face. So they went out and naturally found it all exactly how Christ had explained it would be.
Fast forward as the disciples come together to gather the house for Passover. Judas had already made a deal with the High Priest and Sanhedrin to betray Jesus and turn him over to them that night and Jesus already knew this in His heart. Nonetheless, Christ welcomed them all to the upper room and acknowledged them as his Brothers. His heart must have been so heavy and pained knowing what was to come. Imagine sitting at this table with all of them as they prepare to celebrate this most sacred moment. Look at Jesus as he glances around a room with a smile yet saddened eyes. He begins by saying, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I tell you I shall not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God” (Luke 22:15-16). He is revealing to them that this is the last Passover he will share with them while also inclining that he is to suffer very soon. The Disciples, I’m sure, are puzzled again and probably also concerned for what this night then might hold for all of them and especially Jesus. Jesus goes on, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me” (Mark 14:18). Imagine now the commotion in the room as every single disciple becomes defensive. See the fast glances for downcast eyes happen around the room. And then, to make matters more extreme Christ says, “The Son of man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born” (Matthew 26:24). Imagine being in Judas’ shoes in that moment as the Lord is looking around the room saying this and then locks eyes with him. If I were Judas, I would have given up right there, that condemnation from my Teacher would have been enough for me to change my plans. But it had to come to pass as it did. Jesus knew that it had to happen like this and there was no way that the course could have been changed. This was God’s plan. Christ then calmed and quieted the room after this in order to lead them into the most important part of all, the Institution of the Holy Eucharist.
“And he took the bread, and when he had given thanks he broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me’ and likewise the chalice after supper, saying ‘This chalice which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood” (Luke 22:19-20). Quiet awe and wonder fills the room. All eyes are fixed on Jesus. You could probably hear a pin drop. Imagine the thoughts that would have crossed your mind if you had heard this for the first time. What does he mean his body is given for me? I’m supposed to do what in remembrance of him? What is a new covenant? How is it in his blood? In that single moment, the Disciples in no way could comprehend its full meaning but the Lord was moving in their hearts and enlightening their minds. The Holy Spirit descended upon the room in this moment as God changed the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ. The mystery of Transubstantiation takes place for the first time. By sharing his own body and blood, Christ becomes the new sacrificial victim enacting a New Covenant with his Disciples. In breaking the bread, Christ pre-enacts the breaking of his body on the Cross. The Eucharist becomes a pledge and a sign of heavenly glory for all of us. This is so special because this moment and truth did not stay here but continues on in every mass to this day. And the power that Christ granted to his disciples to do this in remembrance of him still carries on in every priest to this day. Christ in this moment calls each one of us as well to be in communion with him and to share communion with him. We are called to take and eat his body and blood, to have a share in the new covenant he gifted to us on this night. What a calling. What an opportunity. This moment would change the course of not only Catholic History but World History forever for because of this moment, we have Christ with us here and now and eternity.
At the end of this most climatic moment, Jesus goes on to do something that is sure to humble and move every disciple’s heart even more. “Jesus rose from supper, laid aside his garments, and tied a towel around himself. He then poured water into a basin, and began to wash his disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him” (John 13: 5). Imagine you are there seeing this take place. Imagine seeing the King of Kings humbly bow before his Disciples and do one of the most selfless acts ever. Christ displays an act of perfect and humble servitude as well as giving a previous of the heroic service he will render when he accepts the humiliation of the cross. He says to them, “If I, your Lord and teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example that you also should do as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him” (John 13:14-16). It gives me great joy to see this act continue on in the tradition of the Church on Holy Thursday. It is a beautiful reminder of the selfless and humble acts we are called to in order to obtain holiness. What a powerful way to signify laying down one’s life for another.
Jesus concludes the ceremony by giving glory and thanks to God and leads his closest disciples up into the nearby Garden of Gethsemane for further prayer. Judas does not follow. Imagine walking with Jesus now in the dark of the night after everything has happened. You walk through olive groves draped in moonlight. In the quiet you follow the Lord and start to sense his somber and weighted heart. Jesus turns and says, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me” (Matthew 26: 38). Imagine the concern that crosses the eyes of the Disciples who loved him so deeply. They didn’t know what was going on or how to help. They watch him weakly walk a little way off. You see him cry out to his Father in pain and in anguish. Jesus exclaims aloud, “Abba, Father, all things are possible to you; remove this chalice from me; yet not what I will but what you will” (Mark 14: 36). Everything within him crumbles for he knows what he is about to endure. He sees it all before him. He knows that the chalice handed to him is the will of the Father. He knows that this is the only way to redeem Man and open the gates of Heaven, but his human will fears the agonizing journey before him.
You hear loud footsteps approaching. You turn suddenly and see several armed Jewish guards and hiding behind them all is Judas. Jesus comes alongside you. You see blood and sweat dripping across his forehead. His body is weak, but his will is strong. No words are exchanged. Judas approaches Jesus and calls him, “Master” and kisses him. How deceitful. How criminal. Jesus responds, “ ‘Friend, why are you here?’ And they came up and laid hands-on Jesus and seized him” (Matthew 26:50). You see the guilt in the heart of Judas. You see the rage in the heart of Peter. You see the confusion and sadness in the heart of John. And you see the calm in Jesus. He does not resist or fight back. He goes willingly. Knowing all, he follows his arrestors to his death. We close the scene here. The last full day Christ had as man on earth ends here. A night filled with glory and agony, power and pain. As we enter the triduum, I invite you to approach it in a way you have never approached it before. I invite you to embrace a truly somber yet hopeful attitude as you approach these days. Our Lord sacrificed it all for you. Let him show you that in a new way today.