Holy Thursday has a special place in the hearts of all who know and love the charism of the Faithful Companions of Jesus. For the sisters, it is also the feast or foundation day, as Patricia Grogan fcJ describes:
As [Marie Madeleine] dwelt on the great love of her Lord on the mysteries of his paschal meal, passion and death, she gave him her heart, her soul and her entire being, consecrating herself at the foot of the cross to the work for which God had been so long preparing her. In this hidden way, in the silence of her heart, the Society of the Faithful Companions of Jesus was born.| P. Grogan fcJ, God’s Faithful Instrument, p.75
With this in mind, I offer the following for your reflection.
I wrote recently about this year’s Palm Sunday being a Palm Sunday like no other. The same is also true for Holy Week.
Earlier in the week, I was speaking to a friend who visits refugees at a detention centre. He mentioned in passing that he had taken in food for them, so I asked why, thinking, “Don’t they have enough to eat?”
We celebrate the Eucharistic meal at every Mass. It is familiar to us who practise our faith, but it can also mean that we forget its significance and meaning in its origins. The Gospel reading for Holy Thursday says that it was during supper (John 13:2) that Jesus got up and began to wash the feet of his disciples. It is during this meal that Jesus says:
If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet,
you ought to wash one another’s feet.
I have given you a model to follow,
so that as I have done for you, you should also do. (John 13:14-15)
The Washing of the Feet, as many have rightly interpreted, is about humility and selfless service, aspects found in the Eucharistic meal. But it is also about justice, about restoring right relationship among people. Ron Rolheiser offers the following:
The Eucharist, among other things, calls us to justice, to dissolve the distinction between rich and poor, noble and peasant, aristocrat and servant, both around the Eucharist table itself and afterwards, outside of the church. The Eucharist fulfills what Mary prophesied when she was pregnant with Jesus – namely that, in Jesus, the mighty would be brought down and the lowly would be raised up.
…The Eucharistic table is a table of social non-distinction, a place to which the rich and the poor are called to be together beyond all class and status. | Ronald Rolheiser, Our One Great Act of Fidelity (2011), p.73-74)
In response to my question, my friend explained to me that it originated with the bringing of fruit – fruits like rambutan or durian, reminders of home’s comforts; or grapes, a luxury item for them, though inexpensive for Australians. He then recounted an incident where he brought in steamed dim sims (dumplings) and the group enjoyed them with their own mix of fish sauce, garlic and chili.
As I listened to the stories my friend told me, I found myself extremely moved. It’s one thing to read the stories and reports of refugees and those detained inhumanely on Nauru and Manus Island, but it’s another thing to hear from someone who has been in contact with them.
He told me that he had met with a group of asylum seekers, who on their arrival to Australia would eventually become the last group to do so, since the day on which they arrived was the same in which the Abbott government brought in the ‘boat turn-back’ policy. My friend also told me how a husband, wife and their baby who was 8-months’ old on arrival recently “had their one-year anniversary”, and also how detainees face negative consequences for conversing with Australians at the compound’s fence.
I began to weep, my heart heavy with grief for these people and for the state in which we find ourselves as Australians. I do not write this to burden you but to show you the realities of what is going on around us. Whether or not you feel passionately about the issues concerning asylum seekers, it cannot be denied that such is a “contemporary cross.” And in line with the Chapter Decree of the Faithful Companions of Jesus, we are to be “channels of hope, love and mercy in our villages, towns and cities” by standing at the foot of these contemporary crosses.
The symbol of a cross was not always the hope of the resurrection Christians recognise today. It was a mark of shame, persecution and death. Jesus Christ changed all that. With this in mind, where do you see in your world, contemporary crosses? What can you do to change things from destruction into life? What hope can you bring to the world? In what ways, great or small, do you restore right relationship in your care for the poor, the marginalised and those on the outside?
As we journey into the holy mystery of the Easter Triduum, may we remember each other, not as this person or that, but as an equal member of the Body of Christ, as one part to a unified whole.