“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 13:24-25
The lines above are from the service for Maundy Thursday, and from the gospel many of us will hear at that service.
But we live in a time of pandemic, a time in which many of us have been fasting from communion for these many weeks—yet we have hopefully never fasted from Eucharist, from thanksgiving, from the gift of love that Jesus urges us toward.
Even as we worship separately from each other in a tine of quarantine, we share in the living reminder that we are to love one another— even in the face of difficulties, differences, even in the face of anxiety.
As the Anglican poet and priest George Herbert wrote five centuries ago, when discussing the Eucharist in one of his poems, love bids us welcome. Love roots itself in our very being and transforms us. And we are still in need of that transformation, centuries later. In this time of pandemic, we are called to overcome the fears that might separate us, and instead some into a fuller understanding of our essential unity and interconnectedness.
On Maundy Thursday, Jesus makes it clear that we can’t serve God unless we are willing to also serve each other. Jesus calls us to make ourselves holy, and to be disciples who work for the repair of the world. This is a sacrifice of praise, of thanksgiving, and hope. A sacrifice we can celebrate together even across physical distance.
When we gather together, even in this time when we gather online, we are nonetheless engaged in a radical act to remake ourselves, and by doing so, remake the world, to reflect the continuing presence and healing of the world by God through the power of the Holy Spirit.
As we consider over these next days the paths that lead through the dark wilderness of betrayal and sacrifice, how can our own hearts not break a little?
Yet, let our hearts break.
Let them crack open, so that the light of Christ can shine through the cracks and illuminate our inmost selves. Let that light in and illuminate all the hurts, all the betrayals, all the losses we still hold within those broken hearts.
Let’s let our hearts break open, for only when they are open can they be filled.
Then healed, renewed, let us fill those same hearts with joy, and peace, and thanksgiving for Christ’s love for each and every one of us, and for the love we have for each other. Especially in this time of fear and anxiety, we are called to celebrate the power of love, as we enter these three holy days where we remember how much Jesus answered evil with love.
As we raise our open hands let us raise our open hearts, healed and renewed by the power of love, to receive the Body and Blood of our Savior, who did not die to save us long ago, but lives today in you and me and in all of us, who is with us at this altar right now, loving everyone around this table.
Let us receive Jesus Christ, who continues to save us and love us during every minute of our lives and beyond, bringing us to new life filled with love and service and thanksgiving for each other.
The Rev. Leslie Scoopmire is a writer, musician, and a priest in the Diocese of Missouri. She is priest-in-charge of St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Ellisville, MO. She posts daily prayers at her blog Abiding In Hope, and collects spiritual writings and images at Poems, Psalms, and Prayers.