A few days ago, I re-read the red-letter chapters (13-17) of John’s gospel. Jesus is talking with his disciples on the night of his betrayal, after the Passover meal and after Judas’ exit towards treachery. Jesus knew what was coming, so this was his last opportunity for transferring his heartfelt instructions and observations—even some *mandates—to the folks who would carry on after him.
Jesus’ long discourse—or John’s memory of that night—reads like an emotional farewell conversation. Jesus wanted to leave his followers—us included—with truths that can equip us for faithful living. These chapters show Jesus’ fervent wish to transfer useful knowledge. His thoughts move among several themes, each of them summarized and repeated for emphasis. Perhaps most central for us right now is Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer (chapter 17), where he prays about the heart of the Church. Our hearts.
Some of us may realize that our time is also getting shorter. We may not have a group of followers dependent on us, but there are beloved people who have learned from us, for whom we’ve been influential. Sooner or later, we may come to realize it’s time to say goodbye. To leave instructions and convey our hopes. We want our loved ones and those around us to know and believe what we have cherished for so long. We hope that our witness might still inspire or instruct. We’d like the legacy we’ve received to continue. We want the best for those who come after us.
If we’re fortunate, there may be a time for us to bid farewell to those we love. This Maundy Thursday might be a good occasion to think about those conversations. About the mandates we’ll leave behind.
Some of them might just carry forward Jesus’ red-letter words!
* Maundy comes from the Latin mandatum, meaning “commissions, orders, commands or mandates.” So Maundy Thursday is an occasion to pay worshipful attention to Jesus’ instructions.
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