'TO SERVE WITH LOVE!'
(A reflection on 'Maundy' Thursday)
-Fr. Cedric Prakash sj*
Krishen Khanna, is one of the most celebrated contemporary Indian artists. His specialty paintings include several versions of the 'Last Supper'. In one of them - which is indeed a very powerful and symbolic representation - he shows Jesus surrounded by a group of twelve. These are undoubtedly the downtrodden and the oppressed with whom Jesus identified with! There is a complete absence of a meal but by providing a sub-altern perception Krishen Khanna in more ways than one, contextualizes the 'Last Supper' and even challenges us to a deeper understanding of it!
For the Christians, the world over 'Maundy' Thursday which commemorates 'the Last Supper' is the beginning of the Paschal Triduum which culminates on Easter Sunday. 'Maundy' is a derivative from the Latin 'Mandatum' which means 'mandate' or 'commandment'; the command Jesus gave to his disciples during the meal "a new commandment I give you, that you love one another'.
For Jesus, this new commandment is exemplified in total and meaningful service. He startles those around the table by getting down on his knees and washing their feet - much to the consternation of some. This gesture is no ordinary one considering the fact, that at the time of Jesus, only slaves washed the feet of their masters.
The twelve disciples of Jesus represented the diversity of his society. When Jesus washes their feet, he transcends the narrow confines of human prejudices and biases; he takes a stand against powerful vested interests of his time who only wanted to be served; above all, he creates the possibility of a society based on equity, justice and love.
Maundy Thursday is therefore, a reminder to all, very specifically for Christians, that service with selfless love is what the world hungers for most! It is a time for all to reach out to the despised and marginalized of our society; it is a call for self transformation in order that we may truly live in a transformed society.
The breaking of the bread and the sharing of the cup which follow this act of service are essential dimensions of the Christian Eucharist. Krishen Khanna reminds all of us that in today's world which is becoming more fragmented and divisive, we urgently need to share with one another not just a meal but the totality of our lives.
4th April, 2012
(* Fr. Cedric Prakash SJ is the Director of PRASHANT, the Ahmedabad based Jesuit Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace.)
Address: PRASHANT, Hill Nagar, Near Kamdhenu Hall, Drive-in Road, Ahmedabad - 380052