A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. John 13:34
I did not know Maundy Thursday existed until 2015. I was raised in a Christian home, went to church all my life, and never knew that the Thursday before Easter meant anything particular to my faith tradition.
Now I realize Jesus’ “last supper” and the events of that night have a meaning of their own as they led up to his ultimate sacrifice on the cross and subsequent resurrection.
Maundy Thursday celebrates the very nature of God: love.
The ultimate humility that Christ shows us at the last supper – through the Eucharist – by presenting himself as a literal piece of bread and cup of wine, the washing the disciples’ feet, and of course the ultimate act of being willing to die in the most shameful way possible for the time – shows us that God is so much more powerful that we can understand but also that he is more humble than we can comprehend.
Christ’s example that evening makes me consider my own life and work. While I work for peace and justice through my role at Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP), it would be laughable to say that I am willing to make sacrifices that would take me extremely out of my comfort zone. Yet when I look to the Palestinians and Israelis that we work closely with, their willingness to stand up to injustice for the sake of what is right shows me that God’s love is not as far departed from this world as I often fear.
Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish, who gave the keynote address at Persistent Hope, CMEP’s 2019 Advocacy Summit, is one example of such love and humility. He lost three of his daughters during an Israeli military operation in Gaza., Yet instead of anger, Izzeldin uses his grief to propel peace through his foundation Daughters for Life. He recognizes that the fate of Israelis and Palestinians is linked and interdependent, each affected by the other’s future. “We want to seek freedom for all. Israelis are not free when Palestinians are not free.” Whether that’s a one-state or two-state solution isn’t as significant to him, but what he says matters is that Israelis and Palestinians live jointly as equal neighbors.
Dr. Abuelaish’s example reminds me that love is greater than hate. Hope can come out of tragedy. In this way, Izzeldin’s story reminds me of the Easter story and particularly Christ’s commandment to all of us during the last supper: Love one another.
Maundy Thursday is God’s ultimate showing of love. He is willing to go to the end of all reasonableness simply to be with us. To wash our feet. That is what Maundy Thursday recalls and that is the faith we celebrate on Easter Sunday.
Katie McRoberts is CMEP’s Director of Communication.