Reflection for Maundy Thursday - 28th March 2024

We come at last to the culmination of Lent, the holy days when we journey with Jesus Christ through the last supper, betrayal and crucifixion to his resurrection. Our baptismal union with Christ in his death and resurrection is the central mystery of our faith and one which our liturgical year brings to us to be lived afresh each spring. It is at the heart of our lives as Christians and at the centre of human history, unveiling the purpose of our human lives amidst all the pain, suffering and violence that constantly plagues humanity.

This year it is particularly poignant for us as we are also journeying with our Sr Mary John towards her death. She, and we, are in that strange place of waiting, knowing it cannot be long but not really knowing how long. That ‘not knowing’ took me to the disciples as they gathered for what we now call the ‘Last supper’. Jesus had been talking of his death and had deliberately walked into danger by coming to Jerusalem. The disciples had come with him, no doubt with a sense of foreboding, wondering what would happen and when. Now they were at supper together and Jesus broke bread and shared the cup with the words that are now so familiar to us. Something important was happening but did they realise how soon the death of Jesus would come crashing in upon them? I don’t suppose they realised that it was their last supper with him. And how quickly all but a few women and the beloved disciple would desert him.

Even Jesus perhaps did not know quite when it was to happen but in his struggle in Gethsemane he came through to a place where he could surrender to God’s will for him when his betrayer came. This was the moment towards which his ministry had been leading him since his baptism, when God acknowledged him as God’s beloved son. After his baptism Jesus was driven out into the wilderness to do battle with the forces that well up from the murky depths of the collective unconscious of humanity, the temptations that fall to all of us. In this season of Lent we have been sharing that wilderness experience, facing our own temptations and in whatever disciplines we have embraced sought to let go a little bit more of that ego which leads us astray.

Now we come to the ultimate confrontation with these forces as Jesus faces the worst that human beings can throw at him. He is betrayed and deserted by his friends as the religious and political powers of his day turn on him to destroy what threatens their power. He is lifted up, crucified between heaven and earth, offering up his life for us in the battle between good and evil. I come back to Helen Luke’s explanation of ‘intercession’ as ‘yielding between’1 and here we have Jesus making the ultimate intercession for us as he yields himself between heaven and earth, pinned to the cross.

We too are called to a work of intercession, of ‘yielding between’ the polarities of life, of accepting the pain and suffering that life brings whilst knowing that there is heavenly glory wrapped up in this. So often it is small daily steps of yielding to others, of setting aside our own comfort and convenience for the sake of another that is our own crucifixion. Bit by bit our ego is dismantled and we become transparent to God’s presence. For all of us it is a journey that ultimately ends in our bodily death when we are called to relinquish all and step over into the new life that is ours in Christ.

This is a challenging time for us as a community as our fragility becomes so clear to us. Things we have cherished have to be changed or let go and we have to accept that we cannot achieve the perfection we would wish in our music and ceremonial. We have simply not had time to prepare properly. But I see a healthy humility in the way we continue to sing with love and commitment, to the best of our ability, and within the constraints imposed by our current circumstances. I am sure that whatever happens over these coming days our offering will be pleasing to God.

As we journey through the Paschal Mystery together I pray that it will take each one of us deeper into the mystery of God’s love at the heart of suffering and loss. As Jesus died he gave up his Spirit to the infant church, and that same Spirit now empowers us to open to God’s will for us as we move into the unknown future.

1Helen Luke, ‘Old Age: Journey Into Simplicity’, Parabola Books, pg 79

Mother Anne - 28th March 2024