Maundy Thursday, March 28
John 17: 1-26
Throughout this season of Lent, we have traveled together on a pilgrimage through the desert: repenting, waiting, yearning for signs of salvation. On Maundy Thursday, we pause near the end of our journey to remember the mandatum that Jesus gave his disciples in the Upper Room: on the night that he was betrayed, Jesus asked that his disciples “love one another, as I have loved you” (John 15:12). Jesus models this radical love when he breaks bread with and washes the feet of his disciples, who would abandon him—even Judas, who betrayed him before the night was over. In a final prayer over his disciples and all who would believe their message, Jesus asks that “they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me” (John 17:22-3). This intercessory plea for unity is no glib afterthought to conclude the Last Supper: the unity for which Jesus prays is painful, vexing, anguishing... even subversive. This unity does not make problems disappear; it isn’t superficial harmony. Nor is it a totalizing unity that sublimates difference or brushes over conflict. The reconciling unity of God invites repentance. Justice. Truth. Mercy. Humility. Forgiveness. Letting go. And it is a unity we do not do; rather, it is done for us. Jesus lives into this prayer when he unites himself to his disciples and a suffering world, in an act of solidarity so wrenching it leads to his death. Yet our hope -- the Easter hope to which we cling -- is that the love of God overcomes death itself. The mighty love of God, which Dante described as L’amor che move il sole e l’altre stelle, “the love that moves the sun and the other stars,” is the force that finally unites us to God and to one another, that we “may be one as God is one” (John 17:11). The unitive way of Jesus roots us in the deep love of God, a love wide enough to embrace the entire kosmos. May we receive Jesus’ final intercession on our behalf to be “completely one,” united through God’s love by the power of the Holy Spirit, invited into the fellowship of the Holy Trinity (John 17:21), and in this way to be living, breathing witnesses in solidarity with a suffering world, “so that the world may know” the power and love of Jesus, the One sent by God for us and for our salvation.
Breath Prayer: Draw us deeper into the unity of your Love, oh God.
Sarah Messner, Seminary Deacon
Dante Aligheri, The Divine Comedy of Dante Aligheri: Paradiso. Ed. and trans John D. Sinclair
(New York: Oxford University Press, 1939) 484-5