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Maundy Thursday: Darkness or Light

Thursday, April 05, 2012
Today’s Gospel reading is typical of John. It is richly laden with sign and meaning. In it we find the call to the Christian life; the example of our Lord loving and serving others, as we should love and serve in all humility; we are pointed through this intimate scene to the communion of fellowship which is fully expressed in the Eucharist. But there is a false note, a note of discord, which plays through this touching scene of gift and preparation; the note of discord is Judas.

The devil had already induced Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot, to hand him over.

A reading of Judas’ life that based the beginning, as well as the end of his betrayal, on the night of the Lord’s Supper, would be a superficial reading. However, both are closely associated with Christ as the Bread of Life. The first is at Capernaum where he states; "I am the Bread of Life" but goes on to reveal; “did I not choose you, the twelve? Yet one of you is a devil.” (John 6:70) Betrayal bookmarks the public life of Christ; it begins with his public ministry and finds completion at the Last Supper. In this weeks gospel readings, we are pointed to see how Judas succumbs to the temptation of avarice, which finds its completion this night at Gethsemane.

It is one thing to be called and chosen by Christ, yet quite another to fulfil the obligations of that call. Christ knows well our weakness and yet, what was Jesus’ response to Judas’ betrayal? That he must have felt a deep sorrow for him is certain, yet he bore no resentment. He does not denounce Judas to the assembled disciples, quite the opposite, instead; “he got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet.” He treats Judas with the same loving kindness as the other disciples; he invites Judas, in the most poignant and personal way, to turn from sin.

To allow Satan to take hold of us we must be willing. Judas should have known that when the Son of God bent low to wash his feet, he extended his love, his friendship and his mercy. Judas rejects this offer and must go out into the night, into the darkness and away from the Light of the World. This evening we will see repeated that most poignant of acts, the washing of the feet. We will see, in this communion of discipleship, that close bond of love and fellowship which finds its fullest expression in the Eucharist, instituted on that blessed night. Are we to be humbled by the loving mercy of a God who stoops to wash our feet, to wash us from the sins we carry? Are we to join with him and allow the Bread of Life to transform us? Or are we to turn away and go out into the night and away from the Light?

Graham Hunt OP


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