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Be Ye Doers of the Word and Not Hearers Only

Maundy Thursday – Year B

What does that mean – Maundy?

Well first of all it comes into English from French, but they don’t use it anymore. They got it from Latin, which isn’t spoken anymore, and apparently to say “Maundy” would be rather like saying “Commandyment.”

The word became associated with Holy Thursday – today – because for a millenium and a half — on the day before Good Friday — catholic priests would commemorate the last supper by reciting from the Gospel of John in Latin – a language which 99.9% of the English people did not understood for most of that time.

The priests of medieval England would mutter their way through the long lost tongue of Mother Rome – with their Norman French accents – trying very hard to say, “Mandatum novum do vobis.”

Sadly, it seems, the commoners never quite got it. For centuries, all the English people heard was, “Maundy novim, something, something, blah, blah, blah.”

They didn’t quite get it. What they heard was some mysterious hocus-pocus in the mouths of a distant priesthood. What they did not hear was the voice of Jesus saying: “A new commandment I give to you – Love one another, as I have loved you.”

The word Maundy is little better than gibberish, and all it means is “Commandment” in Middle English Pig Latin.

But while some few may have known that, even fewer heard what the new commandment actually was.

It was the commandment to love one another, as Jesus has loved us. It was the commandment to become intimate with one another, as the Lord God has offered himself an intimate sacrifice to us.

Unfortunately, the church lost that message of intimate communion. While the letter of God’s Word was carried on – albeit imperfectly – the spirit was drained right out. There was a body, but no blood left in it.

For the church of God began sitting around a table with Jesus himself, on the night he was handed over to suffering and death; but within a few hundred years this intimate holy meal between friends became a boring religious formality – to be performed while people slept in the pews and the priests spoke strange words behind a shrouded altar.

It all reminds me of … me.

Now don’t laugh when I say this. It is not supposed to be funny.

But believe it or not, I’m actually a shy person.

Alright, now I said “don’t laugh.”

Sure, in many public ways, I’m not shy at all. I like to be funny, I like to speak in public, etc., etc.

But when it comes to emotional intimacy, to sharing feelings, to letting my guard down – I’m actually shy.

And if I didn’t trust you very much, I wouldn’t be able to tell you this.

But there it is. In my life, I often seek to break off a big piece of Divine Knowledge, but I usually only dip it lightly in the cup of Divine Passion.

Like many people, I love knowledge and reason, but I often shy away from emotional intimacy. And in this way, I am a poor disciple.

I am a poor disciple, who doesn’t want God to get too close to me in “That” way. I don’t want Jesus to “wash my feet.” I don’t want Jesus to get into my heart too much. I don’t want Jesus to make himself humble, and available, and intimate with me. That freaks me out a little bit.

I say I love Jesus, but part of me really doesn’t want to get too close.

Part of me wants to sit at the table, but with Jesus a couple of chairs down. I want to be there at the feast, in the fellowship of the other disciples. I want to eat my bread, and drink my wine, and go along with the crowd, but not perhaps all the way.

Not all the way to intimate contact with an intimate Messiah.

But – here’s the deal.

Jesus is going to die for me tomorrow. Not just for Peter and John and Mary Magdalene.

Jesus is going to die for me — tomorrow. And yet sometimes I feel that I’m just sitting here at the Last Supper like some kind of light-hearted nobody.

Jesus is going to die for me – tomorrow. And I’m not sure I’m a very good disciple.

I’m not intimate enough. I’m not dedicated enough. I don’t realize how much love God has for me, and for this world.

I watched an old movie a few weeks ago – Jesus of Nazareth by Franco Zeffirelli. And thanks be to God, the greatest thing happened to me.

As I was watching Jesus’ passion on the screen, I began to get a lump in my throat. I began to get one of those painful – Terms of Endearment Movie Throat Lumps that makes it hard to breathe.

When they started to beat Jesus my eyes began to water. When they nailed him to the cross I began to cry. When his mother took his body and laid it in her arms, I was a total wreck.

I don’t know if you’ve ever felt this way, but the passion of Jesus got to me, and melted my heart.

I know I’m a pretty mediocre disciple – but yet I know that that Man died for me, and loves me anyway.

And he did it for you too.

Pray tonight that God will open your heart to be with Jesus at His Last Supper. Pray tonight that God will open your heart to allow Jesus to touch your most intimate secret hiding place.

For tomorrow, my friends, our Lord will die for us.


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