My recent visit to a Gurudwara (Sikh house of worship) in Delhi was an enriching experience for me. It was interesting to observe that they were serving food (Langar) to all the people present in the Gurudwara irrespective of religion, class, caste, wealth. I realized that the rich and the poor were seated in the same line. They served the Langar with a mind of dedication and service. I could also observe the joy of sharing and compassion on the face of all who were serving the Langar. “You also should wash one another’s feet” (Jn 13:14), said Jesus after washing the feet of His disciples. This is a commandment given to us by our Lord Jesus Christ. “For I have set you an example that you also should do as I have done to you” (Jn 13:15). Maundy Thursday reminds us of this commandment of our Lord: ‘do as I have done to you’. He washed the feet and told us to wash, he served and told us to serve; he suffered and told us that as his disciples we also will have to suffer. It is a call to self-denial. Therefore, he tells us clearly that “If anyone wants to come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Mt 16:24). Basically, it is a call for self-denial and service, service with a mind of dedication, love and compassion. Also, Jesus reminds us “whoever wishes to be the greatest must be the servant” (Mt 20:27).
When we observe people we understand that they do service with different attitudes and motives. For some, service is part of their job, so it is a way of making money. Some do service for fame, so they want to show others that they are better people. Some do service as part of their belief, so that they can attain salvation (Moksha). But some others do service with the right and good intention of serving God himself in their fellowmen. They recognize the face of God in the poor and the marginalized and serve them with great joy. As Christians our service should not be simply like that of a social worker. We look at the people through the eyes of our Lord and master Jesus Christ and serve them. The motive of our works of charity should be pure and in accordance to the commandment of our Lord, that is love. Otherwise, it will become like that of any other people who do such works for money or fame. St. Theresa of Calcutta is a good example of selfless service. She served not as a social worker, but as a follower of Christ. She recognized the face of Christ in the poor, the abandoned and marginalized people.
Maundy Thursday invites us to reflect over certain things. Firstly, Service is the face of Christians. We need to serve with humility. The celebration of the Holy Eucharist inspires us to serve one another and find the presence of Christ in other persons. Washing the feet of others is an act of love. This is to love others, even though they don’t deserve our love and concern. This is to do good to them, even if they don’t return the favor.It is to consider the other’s needs as our own. It is to forgive others from the heart, even if they are not feeling sorry for their mistakes. It is to be generous with what we have. It is to empty ones’ self and to be filled with the spirit of Christ. Above all it is to serve others even if it is an unpleasant task without expecting any reward here on earth because our hope and reward is in heaven. We are the humble servants of God.
Secondly, Maundy Thursday fills our minds with the beautiful memories of the last supper Christ had with his disciples. It was a farewell dinner. He came together with his disciples to forget everything and to celebrate. There he gave himself totally to all of us. He wished to be with us for all the time and instituted the Holy Eucharist. Jesus became bread; he broke himself and gave us. So for Christians the Eucharist is a celebration with God forgetting every sorrow of life; there we find the meaning of our life. Coming together is very important in the Eucharist. There we share the love of Christ and become one in Christ.
Christ promised us that wherever two or three are gathered in his name, he is there among them (Mt18: 20). So when we gather in his name, he is also present there. We should come together not only for prayer but for the sharing of our love, joy, sorrow, hope, expectations and so on. In our families we should sit together and talk. Probably it is possible at the time when we come together for supper after all the activities of the day. It is a very unique time for each family. Parents and children come together as Jesus and disciples sat around the table and talked about all the moments of joy, sorrow and other experiences of the day. I am sure that if this coming together and sharing happen in our families, our children will not go astray, our stress will be reduced, our joy will be increased, and our family will be united in love. Therefore, our dining tables at home are equally important as the Eucharistic table, as it brings us together in love. So let the Maundy Thursday help us to have the great memory of the Supper, which helped our Lord and the disciples come together and share their love.
Thirdly, Maundy Thursday reminds us of the word agape, which means selfless, sacrificial and unconditional love. “Love one another as I have loved you” (Jn 15:12). This is the commandment of our Lord Jesus Christ. He loved us by giving himself totally to us. He paid for our sins, dying on the cross. So now he invites us to follow his sublime example, sacrifice our lives for our brothers and sisters. “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (Jn 15:13). It is hard to find real love in this modern world. People show love with selfish motives and intentions. It is very difficult to find out the true and false love. People make use of others with fake love. This is not agape. ‘Agape’ is the most precious and sacred form of love, the same like that of Jesus. This is emptying oneself for the betterment of others, as John the Baptist did. “He must increase, but I must decrease” (Jn 3: 30). The “I” or the “Self ” must die. “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” (Jn 12:24). Only when it dies can it produce fruits. Let us imitate the self-giving model of Jesus who shares with us his own body and blood and enriches us with his real presence in the Holy Eucharist. It is by sharing our blessings, our talents, time, health, wealth, etc., with others that we become true disciples of our divine master and obey His commandment: “Love one another as I have loved you” (Jn 13: 34).
Therefore let this Maundy Thursday help us to reflect more on our duty to serve, to love and to care for each other as Christ did. May the same love of Christ inspire us to live as better Christians and to follow Him more closely to endure our sufferings for the greater glory of God. We should not forget that we are the bearers of Christ, who carry the love of Christ for others. Let us celebrate this Maundy Thursday by imbibing the real spirit which is LOVE. Serve with love and care for others with love, and recognize Christ in others so that we can fulfill the commandment of Christ. Let us serve others with love and spread the message of love to all the people.
“Let us love, since that is what our hearts are made for”- St. Therese of Lisieux.
Bro. Manu Manthara CST