Reflection for Maundy Thursday - 1st April 2021
In the gospel of John (chapter 18:37-8), in his conversation with Pilate, Jesus said ‘For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.’ Pilate asked him ‘What is truth?’
The theme of truth recurs throughout John’s gospel, and he explores various responses to the truth as embodied in Jesus. We could pursue many tracks through this, and take a life-time to do it! I’ll just pick up one or two threads today.
In chapter 14 Jesus says ‘I am the way, the truth and the life’, presenting us with the challenge of truth as a person to whom we relate from our hearts rather than a logical abstraction that we understand with our minds. The answer to Pilate’s question is standing before him, if he could but recognise it. Jesus calls us too to a response of heart-felt love rather than intellectual assent. Jesus says to Pilate that those who belong to the truth listen to his voice, echoing what he says about the sheep who hear his voice (chapter 10). When we respond to that voice of truth we are led into abundant life.
But often it isn’t easy to listen to the truth, to see that it is the way to abundant life. As Jesus says, we prefer the darkness to the light which exposes us as we are, with all our sin and brokenness. We have to face our personal sins and our selfishness, and the self-destructive ways we subvert what we most truly desire in our journey into God. We must also face that fact that simply living in a rich, western country makes us complicit in the exploitation of workers in low-wage countries and in the wide-spread devastation of the environment to provide the goods that support our way of life. It’s hard to know how to cope with that knowledge. Our charitable gifts and attempts to be mindful in our purchasing seem so small in the light of the massive structural injustices we are caught up in. If we open ourselves to the pain it becomes unbearable.
But Jesus, the embodiment of truth, testified to the truth of God’s love for us by taking all that sin and brokenness upon himself in his death on the cross. He opened his arms wide in love for us and in his dying poured out the Spirit upon us to empower us to walk his way of peace and love. We constantly fail but day by day we can turn back to him and receive his forgiveness. The truth of that forgiveness sets us free to respond to the work of the Spirit in our hearts and in our turn to forgive others.
On the cross Jesus overcame the power of evil and drove out the ‘ruler of this world’, which gives us hope that the oppressive structures in which we are caught up are ultimately doomed. Each time we appropriate the power of Jesus’ death in our own lives, in our own personal struggles with sin, we claim a bit more territory back from the forces of evil. We become entry points for God’s love into the world. It may seem small but it contributes to the gradual transformation of the human psyche away from selfishness and towards self-giving love.
Jesus said that the truth will make you free. He said that to those bound up in anxiety to please God by keeping all the details of the law. As a new abbess facing her first Triduum and anxious about all the details I also need to hear that. And perhaps our new sacristan too. In our worship we will offer our best but the truth is that God loves us and welcomes us, whether we turn in a perfect performance or fall flat on our faces!
I pray that as we journey together through these three great days, through the darkness and into light, each one of us may experience afresh the truth of God’s healing and forgiving love shown forth in the death and resurrection of Jesus.
Mother Anne - 1st April 2021