Maundy Thursday popularly known as Holy Thursday and commemorates the last supper of Jesus and His washing of the disciples feet and giving them a new commandment. Maundy is a word derived from the Latin word for mandate or commandment and since Jesus commanded his followers to do this in John’s Gospel, is the reason we refer to this day as Maundy Thursday. At the feet washing, Jesus gives them the new commandment to “Love One Another as I Have Loved You.” Jesus shows in a symbolic way how to live this commandment by washing as a Rabbi His students feet. The feet at the time of Jesus were the dirtiest part of the human body. Even the servants did not wash the feet of guests in the master’s house. This task was beneath even them which is why, Peter at first refuses to let Jesus wash his feet. The symbolic gesture made by Jesus is so important that Jesus must clarify how important it is in which case Peter responds for him to wash as many parts of himself as he will.
Most Church’s have a mass called the Last Supper that starts around 7pm and marks the end of Lent and the beginning of the Triduum. During the service, they reenact the intimate moment Jesus had with His disciples by having the pastor or leaders of the Church wash the feet of those they serve. The Liturgy of the Last Supper also commemorates a second event which is the Institution of the Eucharist.
Another symbolism Jesus gives us has to do with His body and blood shed for us and to be repeatedly consumed at every mass in remembrance of Him. Only, after His resurrection this symbolism turns to real flesh and blood after the transubstantiation during mass. A miracle and gift provided for us to this very day two thousand years after His death. Also, on Maundy Thursday, after all, he readings depicting all that we are speaking of and at the end of the service the altar is stripped, made bare. The altar cloths are stripped; ornaments are removed and so is the Eucharist from the tabernacle. The Eucharist is moved to another location where we reenact the waiting of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane by waiting and watching at the relocated tabernacle until 11pm or midnight. Can we unlike the apostles stay away? Can we support Jesus during His agony? And so we wait, and these symbolisms prepare us to enter into the Triduum, which is the last three days of Holy Week before Easter.
If you can attend a Mass of the Last Supper on Maundy Thursday at your local parish, you should make every effort. You will be pleasantly surprised by its positive effect on your spiritual journey.
I came across this powerful reflection on Judas that I have never heard before. I wanted to share it with all of you for a different perspective as well. It is by Fr. James Martin SJ
Why did Judas do it?
Today’s Gospel (Mt 26:14-25)
. . . . . .
A few years ago I served as a “theological adviser” to an Off-Broadway play, called “The Last Days of Judas Iscariot,” that put Judas on trial for Jesus’s death. We spent many hours sifting through the possible reasons for history’s most famous betrayal.
The Gospel of Mark gives no motivation for Judas’s sudden betrayal. Confusing things further, Matthew has Jesus telling Judas at the Last Supper, “Do what you are here to do,” which seems to imply some acquiescence, or at least foreknowledge, on Jesus’s part. Matthew attempts to clarify things in his account by introducing the motive of greed: “What will you give me if I betray him to you?” Judas asks the Jewish high priests.
The Gospel of John echoes this theme: before the Last Supper, Judas is depicted by the evangelist as the greedy keeper of the common purse. When Jesus is anointed in Bethany, shortly before his crucifixion, Judas complains, asking why the money was not given to the poor. In an aside, John writes, “He [Judas] said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.”
Thus, John paints Judas as greedy, and dishonest as well. Finally, Luke’s gospel tells us that at the Last Supper “Satan had entered into Judas.” Daniel J. Harrington, SJ, told me that this phrase from Luke explained “either everything or nothing.”
There is another hypothesis that sometimes remains unstated by commentators: the evangelists concocted the entire story of Judas’s betrayal for dramatic purposes. Some have posited that the one who betrayed Jesus could have come from outside the Twelve, and that Judas was simply a convenient fall guy. Similarly, Judas may have been invented as a generic “Jewish” character in order to lay the blame for the crucifixion of the Jewish people. The name “Judas” (the Hebrew would be Judah) lends credence to this idea. So might Paul, who suggests that Jesus was “handed over” not by Judas or anyone else but by God.
But a wholesale invention is unlikely. Mark wrote his gospel in 70 A.D., only a few decades after the death of Jesus. Luke and Matthew wrote some 10 to 15 years later. The Christian community of that time still would have counted among its members those who were friends of Jesus, who were eyewitnesses to the Passion, or who knew the sequence of events from conversations with the previous generation. They most likely would have criticized any wild liberties taken with the story. Rather, as Father Harrington told me, “Judas’s betrayal of Jesus was a known and most embarrassing fact.” The ignominy of having Jesus betrayed by one of his closest friends is something the Gospel writers would have wanted to avoid, not invent.
Overall, none of the Gospels provides a convincing reason for why one of the 12 disciples would betray the teacher he esteemed so highly. Greed fails as an explanation—why would someone who had traveled with the penniless rabbi for three years suddenly be consumed with greed? (Unless he was indeed stealing from the common purse.)
William Barclay conjectured that the most compelling explanation is that by handing Jesus over to the Romans, Judas was trying to force Jesus’s hand, to get him to act in a decisive way. Perhaps Judas expected the arrest to prompt Jesus to reveal himself as the long-awaited Messiah by not only ushering in an era of peace, but overthrowing the Roman occupiers. Barclay noted that none of the other traditional explanations (greed, disillusionment, jealousy) explained why Judas would have been so shattered after the crucifixion that the Gospel of Matthew has him committing suicide; only if Judas had expected a measure of good to come from his actions would suicide make any sense. “This is in fact the view which best suits all the facts,” Barclay concluded.
Finally, there is an explanation at once simple and complex: sin. Why do we do what we know is wrong? It is an inexplicable mystery. Perhaps Judas’s reasons for betrayal were obscure even to himself.