On Holy Thursday this year, I had a bit of an epiphany.
Holy Thursday is also called Maundy Thursday, and I had no idea why until I was sitting at Mass reading the intro to the feast in my Roman Missal. Here’s what it said:
The derivation of the word Maundy reminds us of the ceremony of washing the feet, called Mandatum, from the first words of the Antiphone: Mandatum novum do vobis (John, 13. 34). The Mandatum takes place on this day because our Lord washed the feet of His Apostles before the Institution of the Eucharist from which this feast (in Latin Feria Quinta in Caena Domini) derives its most characteristic features.Roman Missal (1962, page 534)
What’s Mandatum novum do vobis mean? A new mandate I give you.
A new mandate? You mean like the government has been giving us the past couple of years? Like take an experimental shot that has not been tested and has the potential to harm you or else you’ll lose your job? That kind of mandate? Or Wear a mask even though the science is inconclusive about preventing viral spread and could actually be harmful in other ways? That kind of mandate?
In John 13:34, Jesus gave us a different kind of mandate. On the night of the last supper, after humbling himself and washing his disciples’ feet, he said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”
That’s a tough one. Much harder than rolling up a sleeve to get a shot or putting on a mask.
But that’s the difference between God and satan. Jesus is so meek and humble that though he was God he didn’t consider equality with God a thing to be grasped (Philippians 2:5-11). I suppose that’s because there is no pride in him. He humbled himself and left his throne on high, following the Father’s will. When we put him on the throne of our hearts, he does not covet that throne to the point of forcing our will to be His will. Though our will should always be in line with his, he doesn’t hold on to the throne of our hearts by force. Consequently, we need to continually re-invite him back into our lives as Lord. (At least I do.)
Satan on the other hand doesn’t respect our will. Once he or one of his minions is in, it’s a struggle to get them to leave. Consider how difficult it is to break bad habits or overcome addictions. The devil is always tempting and trying to change our will from that of the Father to that of ourselves.
We can invite Jesus to be enthroned in our hearts many times, but if our will changes, He abdicates the throne out of respect for our will, just as he abdicated his throne in Heaven out of respect for God’s will. “Yet not my will but thine be done.”
So when we get a mandate from Jesus, it is not something forced upon us. We won’t lose our jobs for not complying. I like what someone said about the Catholic church. She always proposes but never imposes. That’s what Jesus does. His mandates are not like the mandates of the state, though they are not mere suggestions.
Maundy Thursday is the day priests wash the feet of various lay people. Imagine if our government (and all of us) had that sort of concern for its people.
This is one mandate I will try my best to comply with. Love one another deeply from the heart.