I consider this Holy Thursday like a spiritual retreat, calling us to stop, especially inviting us to make an effort to descend in order to serve. I pay attention to the details that John takes care to describe in the scene of the Last Supper. Why should we descend, anyway?
Exodus 12: 1–14
Psalm 116: 12–13, 15–18
1 Corinthians 11: 23–26
John 13: 1–15
The sky is the limit!
We want to excel in what we do; so, we aim at ascending. The only limit tolerable is the sky, just to say, we always want to be going up. This desire to go up we get it right in our family. Show me that parent who doesn’t aim high for their child? Certainly, no one will say: one day I want to see my child become some little, an unimportant person in society, doing the humblest job. They may be there, I haven’t met one yet. What we “drink” from our family, in some way, reflect the values of the society we live in, and those values become part of us. No wonder, go to any kindergarten and speak those lovely toddlers; you will be surprised. They carry within them projects for themselves and for their society much bigger than the lunch pack that mom prepares for them.
In fact, I see nothing wrong with aiming high. That’s why, in opinion, the most serious problem you may have in school, is not that some people are slow or have difficult learning, even failing the exams. That can be worked at; they can be oriented to something that fits them, according to their talent and capacity. The only situation I consider pathetic and hopeless is to find a person, depleted of stimulus to achieve something in life. I’m not talking about the achievement, that can depend on a number of factors; but I speak of the drive to do something.
Ascend and descende
That’s why when I used to teach I liked asking pupils what they wanted to do in life -what was their ambition? What do they want to contribute to the world they live in? To have an ambition, you shouldn’t be looking down, aim high. But That said, I add by saying: it’s also important to check how I ascend: humanely and honestly. Moreover, we should also learn to stop and look around to see those who may be struggling; why not descend and extend to them a helping hand? If we know only to ascend, incapable of descending to serve; our humanity is abandoned to ruthless rule of the jungle -the strong keep going, the weak get eaten. That’s why the Holy Thursday can help us to strike a balance. It’s not ascending at any price, Jesus, by his act, shows us the way.
Holy Thursday scene
At Last Supper Jesus occupies the place of honour, no false humility, he is master among his disciples -they are not on the same platform. And certainly, we can find, in his culture, customs regarding master-disciple relationship. Yet, Jesus not prisoner of cultural definitions; he chooses to act differently. During the meal, he descends from his seat, removes his clothes of honour, girds himself with a cloth for service and begins to do the work reserved for the lowly ones -slaves. Of course, he doesn’t renounce his position of master, yet, still as master he does what is loving and humane -rendering service.
He tells them: see, you call me master and Lord, and you are right -that’s what I’m. but see also that I’m not locked up in the shell of master. If I, your master and Lord, can descend to wash your feet, do likewise to one another. By this command, in no way does Jesus ask his disciples to become doormats of Society; rather, he reminds them to remain servants, no matter the place they occupy in society.
How do we say it differently?
Probably you are a successful woman, in business or in your career. We applaud for you! Keep ascending! That’s our prayer for you. But, at the example of Jesus, learn also to descend, without renouncing your success and without giving up your dreams; look around and see where you give a push to those who may be struggling. What does that mean?
Being Christian is not being mediocre
Jesus gives us an example of service, but still as master and lord. Hence, responding the commandment of love and service is not necessarily about being mediocre in our dreams and projects. Aim big and put it at the service of humanity, just like Jesus uses his position of master and Lord for service. Remember are not “little people”, in Christ we are royal people. Soar as high as you can, but remember to stoop and serve where needed. The question is: what does “descending” mean in my own case? How can I, at my place of work, in my family or among friends descend to wash the feet of others?
At Holy Thursday Jesus institutes the Eucharist which means -thanksgiving. It’s an occasion for me to take stock of the graces that Lord has lavished on me: for all those areas he has enabled me to ascend and realise my dreams. Lord, help me also to know how to stop, know how to look at others, no matter their situation, with an eye of respect, love; and if need be, extend to them a hand of service. Wishing you a fruitful Holy week!
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