Thursday of Holy Week, April 1, 2021
[Jesus said,] “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.” – John 13:34-35
We’ve struggled, Jesus, really struggled
with all these words, these words.
“Love one another”: Sure, it sounds so good to say
but when the chips are down
what does it mean, you know?
Like who, exactly, should we love?
My life is burdened, Jesus, with
a host of people I have no great feeling for.
I’ll treat them all OK, you know,
but more? They’d take advantage sure.
And should we ask about abusers, Lord?
How do we love the ones who do not love,
who hurt and harm and rape and kill?
What love do they deserve, when they
will just abuse the more, you know?
How can we love the ones who do not love
themselves, who cannot stretch
their circumstance to make their living better? They
absorb the love we give, you know,
and offer nothing in return.
Then there are those who love themselves
alone, or love their wealth, or love their weapons. They
accept so little of the love we give.
They offer only scorn, or pity, or at worst
the flying messengers of death, you know.
Love for the rank unlovable, you ask?
I’ll wait until your back is turned to roll my eyes.
For all the reasons anyone could name,
there are just some, you know,
that not even their mothers could give love.
A complicated mandate, this mandatum,
requiring more than words to get it all
assembled, like a fine-laid piece
of furniture, not just a rough-laid
table like this one tonight, you know.
So Jesus, could you give us illustrations?
A picture and directions? You know?
Why are you washing my feet?
A poem/prayer based on John 13:1-17, 31b-35, the Revised Common Lectionary Gospel Reading for Year B, Maundy Thursday.
The image is Christ Washes the Apostles’ Feet, a 12th or 13th century mosaic in Monreale Cathedral, Palermo, Sicily, Italy. Note the Latin “Mandatum” – commandment – at the top of the mosaic. Photo by Sibeaster – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10756980.