April 19, 2006

 

Matins of Holy Thursday

 

“Come, all you faithful; let us enjoy the Master’s hospitality, the banquet of immortality.”

 

Last night, we spoke about the Lord entering the house of the Pharisee and how the sinful woman was the only one who offered the Master hospitality. Grieving over her sin she shows her gratitude for being pardoned.  Regret for the past is mingled with joy as she sits at the Master’s feet covering them with her tears, wiping them with her hair and anointing them with myrrh.  The sinful woman opens her mind and heart, her soul and body to the presence of the Master.  And it is the Master who, from all eternity, desires this woman with all humanity to celebrate with him the banquet of immortality. The universal hospitality of the Master beckons us to enter the new and everlasting covenant. 

 

But to accept the Master’s invitation and to truly enter the banquet celebration requires us to acquire and express the humility of the sinful woman. It is her humility which enables her to properly greet her Master and to trust his love knowing that it is only because of his love - his hospitality - that she is able to draw near and receive forgiveness. Based on the Gospel reading for this evening we are asked a fundamental question: How are we to respond to the Master’s hospitality?

 

In this evening’s reading the Lord teaches his disciples that if they are to enter the banquet of immortality and be participants in the new covenant they must be like him.  They must be servants. Likewise, we who also claim to be disciples of the Master are to learn how to serve. 

 

The hymnody for this evening draws attention to Jesus’ washing the feet of his disciples.  Thus, to serve the other is not only an attitude or desire. To be a servant requires action. Each of us who dares to draw near to the Lord’s table and desires to participate in the banquet of new and eternal life must be willing to serve the other to the extent of washing the other’s feet.

 

The physical posture of bowing and washing the other’s feet is that of a slave.  By assuming the role and position of a slave the Lord shows his disciples – the Lord shows us - the limitless love he extends to each human being.  Becoming a servant – becoming a slave – the Master shows us who celebrate this Matins service that his entire life has been a gradual journey to Golgotha and the cross.  

 

The journey to Golgotha is one that each of us must make if our discipleship is to be authentic.  In this journey we do not reenact what the Lord has done once and for all.  No, our journey is one that teaches us to disown ourselves so that we may embrace the one who is already embracing us. Our ascending the cross is not an attempt to repeat what cannot be repeated.  No, our ascending the cross is our affirmation that we do not belong to ourselves and to the world but to the Lord Jesus. Only when we are free from sin and slaves to righteousness (Rm.6:17-23) can the Church, the living body of Christ, continue to extend his hospitality to and for the life of the world.

 

There is no ministry in the Church which is parallel to the person of Jesus Christ. Every ministry of the Church belongs to him.  Every ministry of the Church has its life in, with and from the Lord.  Indeed, Christ is the one who serves; he is the deacon, he is the presbyter, he is the bishop, he is the disciple whose ministry to the world is made possible through us.

 

But the questions are bound to arise, “how does one, or, how do I become a servant to all? What is it that compels me to move towards Golgotha? What drives me to lose myself so that I may find myself in the Bridal Chamber?”  In this evening’s reading from the Gospel of St. Luke (22:1-39) we are shown that the path to Golgotha is bound to an intense desire to share and therefore to give one’s life for the other.  Jesus desires with great desire to eat the Passover with his disciples.  Let us briefly look at the Greek text.  Jesus says to his disciples “epithumia epethumnsa – with great desire I desire to eat this Passover with you.” It is interesting to note that in the ascetical literature, the word epithumia has a very negative connotation that refers to base and/or sexual desire.  In the context of this evening’s Gospel reading epthumia coincides with what was said last night about the eros.  The sinful woman expressed true and pure eros for the Master.  She gave her entire being to the one she loved with every fiber of her being.  In this evening’s Gospel reading the Lord himself is saying to his disciples “with great desire, with intense desire, with a love that involves every fiber of my being I want to serve you and share this Passover with you.” If we are to serve, if we are to continue the work of the Master, we have to be able to desire to be with one another in the most intense and complete way. Without transgressing – without succumbing to any temptations that might separate us from the Master’s hospitality - we are to extend the New Passover to others. 

 

With desire, with love Jesus seeks to have the Passover with his disciples. With intense desire the Master offers hospitality to the disciples. Yet, what do we learn about the disciples from this evening’s Gospel?  As Jesus draws nearer to Golgotha a dispute arises among them regarding who is the greatest (vss.24ff).  We learn during the supper that one of the disciples will betray the Master and another will deny him. In the end, according to Mark’s Gospel, all the disciples will have abandoned their Master.  Jesus is alone on the cross. 

 

With love, with great desire, the Master offers us hospitality.  With great desire we are called to draw near to the banquet of immortality. By approaching Golgotha and embracing the cross of the Lord we will begin to serve the other, we will be able to bow and wash the feet of our brother and sister. By accepting the Master’s hospitality we are to become servants allowing ourselves to be vulnerable to betrayal and denial. For when we become vulnerable we are then able to show the other and therefore all the world that all betrayal, all denials all sins cannot surpass the Master’s hospitality offered for the life of the world and its salvation.  Amen. 

 

Copyright © 2006 by Father Robert M. Arida