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Maundy Thursday and Jesus’ mandate, “Love one another”

"I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." - John 13: 34-35 (PHS Biblical Framework)

On this Thursday of Holy Week, Christians gather to remember Jesus’ last evening with his disciples. The day is called Maundy Thursday. It is likely that “Maundy” comes from the Latin “mandatum,” which means mandate. On this night, just before his arrest, Jesus would give his disciples the new mandate to love one another.

We at Presbyterian Homes & Services (PHS) have taken this mandate from Jesus to heart. This is why his words in the 13th chapter of John are included in the PHS Biblical Framework. Following Jesus’ example, we commit to the PHS value of Service Excellence defined, “to serve others, whatever it takes.”

What does it take to serve?

On this last night with his disciples, Jesus washed their feet and taught them that they should do the same. It was a common custom in the time of Jesus for foot washing was offered to guests, but this was usually done by a servant. By washing the feet of his disciples, Jesus took on the role of a servant.

After washing their feet, Jesus explains to his disciples and us, “I have set an example for you.” He does more than wipe the dust from his disciples’ feet. He makes them conscious of others and their needs in a new way, which goes far beyond practical hospitality and comfort. It is an example of profound respect and caring for another person.  

Throughout this day, many Christians will practice foot washing as a symbolic gesture. But for the professional caregivers of PHS, foot washing is part of the regular personal care provided to many residents. More than keeping feet clean and healthy, it is one of many acts of care in which resident assistants, home health aides, and other caregivers “serve others, whatever it takes.”  It takes their entering into a posture of humble service marked by their full and loving attention given to the person receiving care. The important work they do daily in caring for older adults is easily overlooked, but what they are doing is a ministry. It is exactly what Jesus commanded, exactly the way he demonstrated. 

It takes love

Day by day, the caregiver’s work is a concrete example for all of us who are part of PHS— employees, residents, clients and volunteers—of fulfilling Jesus’ mandate to love one another in tangible ways that reflects his love for us. Jesus says the distinguishing characteristic of his followers will be their “love for one another;”  love that delights more in serving than in being served; love that is expressed, not just in words, but in deliberate actions; love that is willing to sacrifice. 

On this holy day, may Jesus’ mandate to love one another encourage us to serve one another. And may doing so transform our minds, heart and hands to enrich the lives of those we serve every day.

Read other posts in the Holy Week blog series:
Palm Sunday and the Procession of Honor


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