Loving to the End

What would you do if you knew today would be your last?  That during the night, one of your closest friends would betray you to others who would see that you suffered a cruel and painful death?  Would you gather with your friends for one final farewell?  Would you have one more adventure, one more thrill?  Would you throw up your hands, cry out to God?  Would you try to seek out your betrayer before you were betrayed?  What would you do? 

“When Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end” (John 13:1).  Stop and ponder those words: Jesus knew His time had come and so with His last moments, “He loved [his own] to the end”.  We are included in this as we too are Jesus' own.  He loved us to the end.  

In this last night on earth, Jesus gathered his closest friends and they didn’t look at photos or talk about “the good old days…”  Jesus loved to the end, to the totality of self-giving.  On this night, Jesus poured water into a basin and washed His disciples’ feet; on the cross He will finish pouring out His life, emptying Himself completely in love.  As Pope Benedict XVI writes in “Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week”:

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Unlike Adam, who had tried to grasp divinity for himself, Christ moves in the opposite direction, coming down from His divinity into humanity, taking the form of a servant and becoming obedient even to death on a cross – all this is rendered visible in a single gesture.  Jesus represents the whole of His saving ministry in one symbolic act.  He divests Himself of his divine splendor; He, as it were, kneels down before us; he washes and dries our soiled feet, in order to make us fit to sit at the table for God’s wedding feast.

When we read in the Book of Revelation the paradoxical statement that the redeemed have “washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Rev. 7:14), the meaning is that Jesus’ love “to the end” is what cleanses us, washes us.  The gesture of washing feet expresses precisely this: it is the servant-love of Jesus that draws us out of our pride and makes us fit for God, makes us “clean.”

And we are all represented among the disciples: Thomas, the doubter and a bit of a cynic…John, ever devoted and the one who reclined closest to Jesus heart…impetuous Peter, who always seems to mean well, but who would also betray Jesus with his denials later that night…Philip who voiced the desire of them all to see the Father, yet also reveals they still didn’t quite “get it”…and Judas, a close friend, yet one who was planning to betray Jesus for a bit of extra cash.  We are all there in the Upper Room, gathered with Jesus that night.  And He washes our feet.

Not only that, He also leaves a legacy, one beyond price and description.  He tells them, how much he has longed to share this meal with them.  Not wanting to leave us alone, sheep among wolves, He institutes the Eucharist and gives to mere humans the Real Presence of His body, blood, soul and divinity.  Real food, real drink to strengthen us on our spiritual journey to our heavenly home with Him.  Tonight, we remember in a special and particular way this gift of His Real Presence.  And after, as the disciples left the Upper Room and went with Jesus to the Garden of Gethsemane to be present with Him during His night of agony, He offers us the opportunity to travel with Him to the altars of repose, to sit with Him and “keep watch for one hour.”

Let us not miss this opportunity, this special invitation from Jesus, our Beloved Lord.  As He washes our feet, the affections of our soul, with His grace and love, let us comfort and console Him by accepting the gift of His Presence and the abundance he greatly desires to give us.  Let us offer ourselves to Him by just being with Him this night and allowing Him to transform our hearts and minds.  No matter our past, no matter our present circumstances, no matter what we think might come in the future, let us look to Him right now in this moment of grace with the real hope that we might be drawn ever more closely to Him as He is raised up on the cross of Good Friday.

Something to ponder...

"When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives."
- Matthew 26:30; Mark 14:26

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What did Jesus and His disciples sing?  Most likely, in keeping with Jewish tradition, it would have been at least part of the Hallel Psalms (Psalms 113-18 and 136).  These are hymns and prayers sang by the Jewish people at Passover giving thanks to God for liberating them from slavery in the land of Egypt; but they also speak of the "stone rejected by builders" and pray for God's deliverance in the present.  Past and present come together in these psalms and they are given a new fullness and universal meaning in Jesus.  Spend some time today reading and praying with at least part of these Psalms: imagine Jesus singing them with His disciples, that you are there with them, or imagine that they are present with you where you are now; ask Jesus for the grace to hear Him speak to you through the words of these Psalms in a new way.