Excerpted from Power Made Perfect in Weakness, a Lenten Guide for Lectionary Year A from the North Carolina Council of Churches.
Maundy Thursday – John 13: 31b-35
Jesus said, ‘Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, “Where I am going, you cannot come.” I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.’
When we think back on things loved ones have told us, it’s often the last thing they say that seems to have the strongest impact. We remember their stories and thoughts, but if their words included a direct request, we often feel obligated to act on it. I image the same was true for those hearing Jesus’ final words. Much like our loved one would do with us, Jesus sat with those who had surrounded him with love and support, to explain what was coming. His time with them was coming to an end and they couldn’t go with him. This surely left his disciples feeling confused and insecure. They would be losing, not only the friend they loved, but also their identity. When they were seen with Jesus, it was easy for others to understand who they were. But without his presence, how could they continue to be known as Jesus’ disciples? This gives a great deal of power to Jesus’ new commandment, “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” This certainly falls into the easier said than done category!
On this Maundy Thursday (which literally means “day of the commandment”), how do we begin to live into this commandment. We are in a time in the world’s history that we’ve become newly aware of the level of our connection. We’ve been called upon to make global sacrifices for the good of others. The actions, if done out of love, would certainly be an example of loving as Jesus loved during his time on earth. But what about in our everyday, ordinary life? How do we live into this commandment? I think we sometimes forget the many ways we can love. Of course romantic love is a common conversation and theme around us, but what does it truly mean to love as Jesus loved? I believe this is both simple and complicated, simple to explain but extremely complicated to live. Sometimes it’s easier to love that person or community that isn’t in our daily life. To truly live into loving as Jesus commanded, we must begin at home.
When I read these words of Brene Brown, they took me to a deeper understanding:
“We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known, and when we honor the spiritual connection that grows from that offering with trust, respect, kindness and affection.
Love is not something we give or get; it is something that we nurture and grow, a connection that can only be cultivated between two people when it exists within each one of them – we can only love others as much as we love ourselves.
Shame, blame, disrespect, betrayal, and the withholding of affection damage the roots from which love grows. Love can only survive these injuries if they are acknowledged, healed and rare.”
My prayer for you as we experience the darkness of Friday and the Hallelujahs of Sunday, is that you will find the depth of love for yourself that allows you to truly love as Jesus commanded.