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Maundy Thursday Meditation

  • Posted on Apr 16, 2014

Washing One Another

Jesus, knowing the Father had given all things into his hands, and he had come from God and was going to God, 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 and to wipe them with the towel tied around him.

                                                                                                                                         -John 13:4-5

Walking Together

I didn’t spend time with the broken

because I like pain, but because

I need to feel life

from inside the shell.

 

Everywhere I turn, I witness

such resilience breaking out of

ordinary people:  the fourteen year

old who was burned saving her grand-

mother; the Black sergeant carrying his

white lieutenant out of live fire and how

they fell in the sand and cried in each

other’s arms; and the one with no arms

who keeps asking what she can carry.

 

I’m watching a hummingbird now

work so hard, its wings seem not

to be moving at all. Is this what

happens when we love?

 

I’ll tell you a secret.  I ran a comb

through Grandma’s hair minutes after

she died.  She was still warm, her Spirit

on its way.  I still have the comb.  And

when in doubt or awe, I get by myself

and finger the spaces in

that comb.

 

How can I say this properly:

We can cheat death for a while

by feeding it things that are false.

 

And we can draw life out

by giving when we think

there is nothing left.

                                                                                                   -Mark Nepo, from Reduced to Joy

The night before he died in the Upper Room, Jesus got up from the dinner table and began to wash the disciples’ feet.  It isn’t often that we wash one another any more.  For those who are parents and grandparents, we learn to wash a baby or young child.  As adults, perhaps the most intimate act of love can be when we wash another.  In an age where see so little of preparing a body for burial any more, Mark Nepo’s poem reminds me of the holiness of touch when someone we love dies.  Saying goodbye to someone we love and honoring that person’s body–even and especially in death–is a gift to those of us who remain in the land of the living.  In the simple act of washing a body after death, we are reminded that we too are frail flesh, but also something so much more than flesh.  We are love.  And in that act of washing, we find that love that lives beyond the grave.  When Jesus knelt at the disciples’ feet, he was showing them what it was to love one another.  We are called to do the same.