This Holy or Maundy Thursday, we set our reflection at two venues in Jerusalem. The Upper Room, supposedly the site of the Last Supper; where the real presence of the Holy Eucharist and Priesthood was born, and the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus went to pray after the Last Supper with his disciples; the place where He was betrayed and subsequently arrested – where the whole Via Dolorosa began.
We have become very familiar with the script of the Last Supper, the Washing of the Disciples’ Feet, Judas the betrayer, the Breaking of Bread, the Wine, transubstantiation into the Body and Blood of Christ…the Memorial…Jesus eating a final or last supper with His disciples…the celebration of the Jewish Passover.
“For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over, took bread, and, after he had given thanks, broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes. Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord. A person should examine himself, and so eat the bread and drink the cup. For anyone, who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself.” (1 Corinthians 11:23-29, NAB)
Then there is the agony in the Garden of Gethsemane where, after just a few hours after the celebration in the Upper Room, sorrowful Jesus Christ sweat blood, prays to His Father in Heaven, facing tremendous pressure…temptation, preparing for His Passion…the Via Dolorosa…the Way of the Cross to Golgotha.
In the Passover, the question posed by the youngest is, “why is this night different from all other nights?”…the child is confused. Similarly, at the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus the Son of God knows that this night will be different from all other nights. Jesus can foresee the betrayal, the insults, the torture, the humiliation, the scourging, the crowning of thorns, the falls, the nails, the hammer, the spear, the blood and water gushing forth to give new life and wash away the sins of humanity…the sacrifice.,,the Divine Mercy...
This night is different from all other nights because Jesus knows these are His final hours. What would you do if you knew you had just a few more hours of life, that death is imminent? How would you live your final hours? How will you spend your final hours?
Would you sleep it away like the disciples – wasted, tired, depressed, sense of abandonment, feeling alone and give up?
Would you pursue the pleasure of the flesh, wealth and materialism like Judas – not a care for the soul – live for today, even at the expense of others, not to worry about tomorrow?
Would you imitate Jesus – embracing the pain, in service, loving, praying, turning to God, preparing, trusting and accepting?
Life is fragile. Our end-of-life issues often touch the depths of our being, stir up our emotions, and raise profound questions.
Death is the end of our earthly pilgrimage. Only God’s grace through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit enable us to respond to God’s gratuitous offer of salvation for our souls.
Jesus assures us that death marks the transformation to a new and eternal life.
From the Upper Room to the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus, in His final hours, does not deny the reality of death, along with its suffering and separation. Through Jesus, we know that though life, as we know it, will be changed, it has not ended…
This is what this night is all about. Stay awhile and contemplate.