Maundy Thursday: A Shared Meal

Passover fresco spandrel by Silvestro Pistolesi

Maundy Thursday engages us in deep remembrance. Looking at Moses and Aaron as they prepare the first Passover meal in Egypt, we better understand what acts of remembrance can mean for a people, and a religion. The Passover seder is still at the heart of Jewish faith and tradition. And in that Passover supper in Jerusalem depicted in Luke we witness the birth of our own Eucharistic meal.
But I want us to pay attention to what happened not in Egypt or Jerusalem, but in the desert of Exodus, depicted in Psalm 78. God had worked many wonders for the people fleeing from slavery in Egypt: parting the Red Sea, leading by fire and by cloud, drawing water from hard rock to quench their thirst. Still, as time goes by and the hardships continue, their faith in God’s providence fails. In their hunger they doubt, and ask, “Can God spread a table in the wilderness?” In response, God sends them manna, bread from heaven.
We have been given so many great gifts in our lives, and in the lived tradition of our faith communities. The opportunity to gather in worship with others at the eucharistic table is a blessing beyond compare. But we often take it for granted, and when we face a desert journey – through illness, divorce, job loss, or any unwelcome change – we are still capable of asking if God can provide enough nourishment to see us through.
Even worse, we may be so distracted, enslaved by a desire for worldly goods, that we, like Jesus’s disciples, fail to comprehend the gifts are right before us. Any meal shared with those we love, whether it be at the altar or around a kitchen table, can be a foretaste of the heavenly feast to come, if only we will heed the words of the traditional Maundy Thursday hymn, “Ubi Caritas”, which asks us to set aside our bitterness and quarreling and remember that “where charity and love are found, there is God.”

By Kathleen Norris
excerpted from God For Us, Paraclete Press

Passover fresco spandrel by Silvestro Pistolesi

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