Today is Maundy Thursday, a holy day (along with Yom Kippur) that moves me and feels particularly important. This was the day Jesus made the decision to practice what he preached in the biggest way possible. This was the day he chose to live his truth, even though he knew it would mean his death.
I imagine him wrestling with the question in Gethsemane. Life or death? Pain and forgiveness or capitulation to the status quo? Can I do this? God, will you help me?
For me, the glory of Easter is not the resurrection, but this moment of decision. Jesus made the choice to show us the way by living it and dying it. How it must have hurt to be betrayed and denied by those he loved—he absolved them. The intense agony of being beaten, of having nails driven through flesh and bone—he forgave it. The torture and humiliation of the cross—he showed compassion as a loving parent would a child who unwittingly makes a terrible mistake.
The entire day he showed us the path. He washed the feet of his disciples, he led by serving. He fed them and asked them to remember what he had taught them. The word maundy means command and he left them with the great commandment, Love One Another As I Have Loved You. This is how to be in the world.
The way of the world asks us to forget these lessons. Forget about clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, visiting the incarcerated. Now, Nature/Spirit/God, whatever you like to call the animating energy of life, calls us to put aside the world as we knew it and envision something better. A great decision faces us. Will we move forward to a new reality by making choices that bring humanity to a higher level of compassion and kindness or will we retreat into fear and do all we can to reestablish “normal” even if our previous normal was completely insane and caused immense suffering?
Will we, like Jesus, be willing to give up what we hold dear in order to create a more equitable and sustainable world?
I ponder what that question means for me. I think I live fairly minimally and by western standards perhaps that is true. Then, I look around my one-bedroom apartment that’s warm and snug, the place where I feed my dog a diet that would be the envy of many humans in underdeveloped countries, where the cost of her food and medication per year is more than the yearly income of the average Sri Lankan. If I were asked to give up my apartment to a family of four Syrian refugees and move into a 300 square foot efficiency, would I do that? Would I make even that much of a sacrifice to make the world a better place?
Perhaps, the choices will be easier than I imagine, obvious to everyone when this is over and fairly simple to implement. Certainly this huge shift in our perspective makes things that were impossible a few months ago seem possible, even probable. Certainly we’re seeing value where we might not have recently, say the lives of store clerks and delivery people.
This brings me back to Jesus, especially to the Beatitudes and how the least among us will be lifted up, supported, appreciated. All people have value, not because they create wealth or employ lots of others. They have value simply by being. This includes world leaders who care more for themselves than the people they govern. It includes men and women in prison and death row (whether they’re guilty or not). It includes the neighbour who lets her dog poop in your flower bed and never cleans it up. It includes me. It includes you.
I don’t generally think of myself as particularly Christian, but at times like these I know what an incredible model Jesus is for me.
Nature has given the world an opportunity to reassess our values. Some of us have the luxury to slow down and consider what matters. If you are not currently fighting to keep yourself and others alive, you’re being handed an important mission, an amazing opportunity. Create a more equitable world.
It may or may not require sacrifice. It will surely require decision making and action.
Let us go to our Gethsemanes, to pray and meditate. Ask what constitutes right action. Ask for the courage, fortitude, and humility to carry it out. Let us follow the paths of great spiritual leaders who pretty much all say the same thing. Love one another, forgive everything, be kind.
What choices will we make? What planet will we resurrect?