An Ominous Silence
John 13: 107, 31b-38
This night is a night of great transition. For the disciples the milieu in Jerusalem shifts from a Passover celebration to the seriousness of an impending doom where Jesus hands himself over to the authorities who put him on trial, mock him and carry out his crucifixion.
This is a night of darkness. Shadows elongate and reveal a dirt pathway over ancient stones that lead to the upper room where Jesus gathered at table for what was to be his last meal with his disciples. They carefully climb the stairs one or two stumble for the oil lamps had not yet been lit. Across in the valley the donkey’s have stopped their grazing and are still, their eyes getting closer to sleep with each lengthening blink. In the garden at Gethsemane only the full Paschal moon filters through the branches of the olive trees. Otherwise it was dark.
This is a night of great confusion. Jesus seems to know what lies ahead but no one else does. The betrayal, the denial, the final supper in which he shares are yet to come, but none of the disciples seem to know or understand the magnitude of the hour. They are confused; how could any of them be disloyal to their Lord or renounce their relationship to him? Only God and Jesus know that his hour has come. This moment, this time, this place was the zenith of the meaning of his life.
This is a night of selfless love. As they were eating their meal Jesus quietly gets up from the table and wraps a soft towel around his waist. An anxious hush falls over the room and the disciples begin to eat a little slower. You can hear the wrestling of their robes as they turn towards Jesus when he comes to them and kneels at their feet. The water splashes against the sides of the basin and he dips in the wash rag and wrings it out. All of them, Simon Peter, even Judas Iscariot are cleansed. Jesus leaves no one out. And when he was finished he gave them a cup of wine and some bread and asks that they remember him.
This is a night about Christ, what he has done for us, and what he has yet to accomplish. He comes to us in a lowly manger and then ministers to us through the leper, the blind man, and the prostitute. He mounts a humble donkey and rides closer to his death. He hands us a towel so that we might be cleansed. He hands us some bread and wine in order for us to be refreshed. He gives to us his life, freely and willingly for he could have gotten away. How will you receive him?
This night is a night of ominous silence. For in this hush is every person’s story. Your story, my story and the story of Jesus’ miraculous love. It is in the silence and between the lines that resides the acts of human misery and the reality of our lives, the questioning, the doubt, the fear. In this silence we wrestle between good intentions and indifference, our yesterdays and today’s. Yet, this quiet begets the fullest potential of who we can be and reveals to us the power of God’s love and forgiveness.
On this night, the night in which Jesus was betrayed he gives yet again, a new commandment, to love. Simply love. Deeply love. Honestly love just as he loves us. Unselfishly, with generous intent, and forever. It is the very least that we can do for our Lord.
Amen. Let it be so.
Photograph taken from St. Peter Galicantu in Jerusalem. The crowd is descending the Kidron Valley from the Mount of Olives.