Acts 5:12-16; Psalm 118; Revelation 1:9-13, 17-19; John 20:19-31
Holy Thursday is probably my favorite liturgical celebration. It doesn’t have the angelic chorus of Christmas, the joyous celebration of the Easter Vigil or the bright colors of Easter Sunday. It is simply a meal among friends.
I think of the many meals I have attended at friends’ homes during my life. Some are formal and fancy. Others are pot luck and crowded with friends and acquaintances. My favorite are probably the more impromptu, casual, meals. Everyone pitches in to prepare and clean up. There are laughs and stories. There are remembrances from the week and from years past. This is what I imagine Holy Thursday was like – Jesus and the disciples enjoying each other’s company in the midst of holy days, a stressful time and after a long journey. Then, something changed. The ritual act of washing feet became an important passing of the torch. Jesus served the disciples and, in washing feet, challenged them to continue in the ministry.
This is why I love Holy Thursday. As one of the campus ministers, I wash the feet of people with whom I work and serve on a regular basis. Old and young, neatly manicured or weary with age, I look at the feet and into the eyes of the people that I love. They are the ones that will be carrying on in ministry after I’m gone from STM, called to serve the Church and world in some other capacity. They are the ones that will be carrying on in ministry after I am old and no longer able to bend down and wash people’s feet. My eyes fill with tears realizing that, although I don’t anticipate leaving anytime soon, there will be an end to this gathering and of the simple shared meal of bread and wine. I imagine Jesus, knowing that his end was very likely coming quickly, was filled with some of the same emotions. Now, fast forward to the Gospel for this Sunday. The disciples are huddled away, locked in a room, scared about the implications of being followers of Jesus. For some reason, Thomas isn’t with them. Did he actually follow the command of Jesus to go out and carry on in mission? He missed the appearance of Jesus and, not surprisingly so, had some questions about whether the other disciples were in their right minds. Jesus again returns and Thomas demands that he show his hands. There they were. The hands with wound marks in them from the piercing of nails. The hands that broke bread and distributed wine. The hands that had washed his feet a few weeks earlier.
Thomas was carrying on the work of Jesus, even without knowing that he had returned. Unlike the other disciples, he didn’t need to be sent out. He was already going out, as he was commissioned on Holy Thursday.
We all need reassurance. Sometimes, we are like the disciples in the upper room, too afraid to do what we know is right, needing to be sent again and again. Sometimes, we are like Thomas, doing what needs to be done, not knowing if the one who sent us kept up his end of the bargain. Whether you find yourself hiding in the upper room or struggling with belief, now is the time to believe and go out to spread the good news. If you are neither hiding nor struggling, knock on the door of someone who is and invite them out into the light and fullness of life. Your life is the book that may open others to believe that Jesus is the Good News, the Christ, the Son of God, the Giver of Life.
Sister Jenn Schaaf, OP