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.
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
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.