Project Living: Maundy Thursday

STORY

It’s another cold winter’s night in London. I’m in bed. And my mind is racing. Sian. Today, I just received news that myself - and about 40 others in the UK - are being recalled back home from our exchange program. When is my travel agent going to get me on my next flight? How am I going to finish my exchange? Where is God in all this? As I typed several exasperated emails to my host university to explain my immediate departure, I began to remember how much I missed home. I missed my loved ones dearly. But what I missed most was a happier version of myself that seemed to exist before I left. 

When I left home, I had a falling out with a friend. It was painful. In the first week of my arrival, I didn’t know how to deal with my sorrow. I tried to grieve. But it wasn’t any good. My grief was constantly left unchecked so it often turned to despair. I was the most unhappy I had ever been. 

For a while, I blamed God for leading me into this bleak midwinter. I left behind many securities and comforts that I was used to. It was like a desert. Only colder. I no longer had a familiar routine of prayer and sacraments. And I no longer had the same community to hold me accountable to my faith. I felt alone even in the presence of people. I felt unheard or unseen. On the worst days, I felt abandoned by God. I finally understood how deafening God’s silence can be. Back home, prayer was as easy as breathing. But here, I was sinking. It was as if there was no one to save me. Jesus, where are you? Please save me. This was my prayer in the silence of every dark night. 

During this time, it was difficult for me to believe that Jesus loves me. His silence became a regular part of prayer. So, I accepted it as a new normal. Life went on. As I packed my bags for home, I couldn’t fit everything I had. I had to leave some old stuff behind. Ah. I wondered if I actually did let something go so that He could give me something new. But I was so busy asking God for answers to my questions about the past that I forgot about my newfound freedom. The new experiences and friendships in this season of my faith gave me a freedom to be who I was made to be: a man who is worthy of love. This was the answer I needed to hear even if it was not what I wanted. I am free. I just had to let go of the past to see that the present is my new gift.

In this trying time, there is a new normal. No gatherings; no sacraments. I know it’s easy to yearn for the days past. But if Jesus is here in the present and we take the present for granted, then aren’t we taking His present - His gift - for granted too? Have we insisted on our way rather than His amidst this health crisis? Have we given up on prayer because nothing is going well for us? Have we lived in fear rather than in the hope of the Lord? 

You may ask where God is in all this mess. But Jesus gave Himself as bread that is broken, blessed, and shared at the Last Supper we celebrate today. This simple meal begins His saving work on Calvary. Our salvation is His gift. To receive it, we just have to turn to Jesus in the here and now. We don’t decide when or what gifts we receive - that’s just not how gifts work. 

So, let go and receive.

ACTIVITY

In this activity, you and your companions will be sharing a meal together over video call. All of you will be reading the passage from the Last Supper to re-enact the events by reciting various lines or verses. The purpose of this re-enactment is to assume the role of the disciples so that you can appreciate their responses/attitudes.  There will be questions to guide your sharing and reflection. Here are two versions of the activity for your choosing:

Activity Option 1

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Activity Option 2

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NIGHT VIGIL

Earlier, we re-enacted the Last Supper. The point of this bread-breaking, bread-blessing, and bread-giving is to show that God will feed his people – but not with the manna of old (Ps 78:24-25, Ex 16:1-36) – but the new manna Jesus Christ. He gives himself because “man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Dt 8:3, Mt 4:4). This is why Jesus is the true Bread to be broken and given for all (Jn 6:38). To give Himself is the ultimate act of love. 

Tonight, He asks us for only one thing: “Stay here and keep watch with me.” (cf. Mt 26:38).

Following the liturgical tradition of the Church, we prepared an hour-long vigil. The purpose of the vigil is to allow you to spend time with Jesus alone. Our being alone helps us appreciate Jesus’ agony in the garden before His arrest on Good Friday.

There are two options for your choosing. Also, we include here a Maundy Thursday Vigil playlist in the additional resources section (below) for those of you who wish to be ministered by music.

Vigil Option 1

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Vigil Option 2

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ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

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ANNEX

In this activity, you and your companions will be sharing a meal together over video call. All of you will be reading the passage from the Last Supper to re-enact the events by reciting various lines or verses. The purpose of this re-enactment is to assume the role of the disciples so that you can appreciate their responses/attitudes.  There will be questions to guide your sharing and reflection. Here are two versions of the activity for your choosing:

Annex A

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Annex B

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Annex C

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