Scripture reflection: Holy Thursday


14 Apr 2022
The modern fresco of Feet washing at the last supper from 20.cent. in Syrian orthodox church by artist K. Veniadis (1987).

Scripture reflections for Holy Week Year C 2022, inspired by the writings of Henry Nouwen.

Jesus had always loved those who were his in the world, but now he showed how perfect his love was. He got up from table, removed his outer garment and, taking a towel, wrapped it round his waist; he then poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel he was wearing. When he had washed their feet and put on his clothes again, he went back to the table. ‘Do you understand,’ he said, ‘what I have done to you? You call me Master and Lord, and rightly; so I am. If I, then, the Lord and Master, have washed your feet, you should wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example so that you may copy what I have done to you. I tell you most solemnly, no servant is greater than their master, no messenger is greater than the one who sent them.’ John 13: 1, 4–5, 12–16

As we arrive at the start of the Sacred Triduum, I may want to pause and look back at my prayer this week. Perhaps I have felt overwhelmed by the recent terrible events in our world, and the suffering of so many. I ask the Holy Spirit to strengthen my hope in God’s infinite love and mercy as I gently settle into today’s prayer.

Does anything strike me anew, as I read this familiar text? If it helps, I might imagine myself there in the room, perhaps becoming aware that Jesus wants to wash my feet too. How do I feel about this? If I find it hard to accept, I may want to pause here for as long as I need, to tell him how I feel, and to ask him to help me understand my hesitation.

If I am able to accept the Lord’s invitation, I notice how I feel as he kneels down in front of me and washes my feet. I stay in that moment with the Lord, and share my deepest thoughts and feelings with him. I hear Jesus calling me to wash the feet of those I meet. What might that mean for me? How do I feel about it? If I find it a challenge, I tell the Lord simply from my heart and ask for his help.

In my own time, as I prepare to bring my prayer to a close, I might want to speak to the Lord of my desire for what better allows him to deepen his life in me.

‘Lord Jesus, I look at you
and my eyes are fixed on your eyes …
They are the eyes that saw Andrew, Phillip and the Greeks,
the blind, the lame, the lepers, the hungry crowds,
the sorrowful women at the tomb.

Your eyes, O Lord, see in one glance the inexhaustible love of God
and the seemingly endless agony of all people
who have lost faith in that love
and are like sheep without a shepherd …

Your eyes are so severe yet so loving,
so unmasking yet so protecting,
so penetrating yet so caressing,
so profound yet so intimate,
so distant yet so inviting.

I gradually realise that I want to be seen by you,
to dwell under your caring gaze,
to grow strong and gentle in your sight.

Lord, let me see what you see –
the love of God and the suffering of people
so that my eyes may become more and more like yours,
eyes that can heal wounded hearts.’ 
– Henri Nouwen, The Road to Daybreak (adapted) 

St Bueno’s Outreach, Diocese of Wrexham, UK

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