Walking Our Faith: When you are searching for love in the dark (column)
April 15, 2017
I attended my first Passover Seder on Tuesday, thanks to the kindness of Jonathan and Susan Knopf, and the Synagogue of the Summit. The Seder was led by Rabbi Ruth Gelfarb and took place at the Senior Center. There were at least 150 people, families young and old, friends, and guests. As would be expected for an event remembering God's deliverance of his people from slavery, it was a joyous event. And I am very grateful that I had the opportunity to experience it.
I am grateful for the way in which God, in his wisdom, wove together a tapestry of history and miracles that would link us forever in admiration and respect. Our Christian faith does not exist without the first covenant given to the Jewish people, or the Christ child born to Jewish parents. It also got me thinking about another Passover dinner, two thousand years ago.
Wondering about Jesus' final Passover supper sent me to the Gospel of Saint John. In Chapters 13-17, I read, "Jesus knew on the evening of the Passover Day that it would be his last night on earth before returning to his father." (John 13:1)
Instead of breaking the unleavened bread to remember God's provision during the Jews' quick flight from Egypt, Jesus' asked his disciples to accept this bread as his body, given up for them. And the wine they consumed would become the blood of the new sacrificial lamb of God. The blood that was shed for all of us. And then he did something remarkable for the Son of God, Jesus washed the feet of his disciples as an example of how we should serve others.
At Holy Thursday mass this week, I was one of twelve parishioners who had my feet washed by Father Joe, as icon for Christ washing the disciples' feet. Although I have watched the washing of the feet, this was my first time to participate. It is humbling and breathtaking to experience an act of such tenderness, humility, and a glimpse into the lengths which God's son would travel to demonstrate his love for us.
Finally, as the disciples realized this would be the last night they would share with Jesus, he offered them consolation.
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"I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Live within my love. When you obey me you are living in my love, just as I obey my Father and live in his love. I have told you this so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your cup of joy will overflow! I demand that you love each other as much as I love you." (John 15:9-11)
From today, I will view the Last Supper as a very special Passover feast. A second Passover, in which God once again redeemed, freed and delivered us. Not from a physical slavery, but from a slavery to the sin which separated us from God. Jesus became the Paschal lamb who took away the sins of the world, his death became that holy sacrifice of the unblemished lamb.
"If you trust me, you are really trusting God. For when you see me, you are seeing the one who sent me. I have come as a Light to shine in this dark world, so that all who put their trust in me will no longer wander in the darkness." (John 12:44-46)
After Holy Thursday Mass, as the altar was stripped, the Blessed Sacrament was taken to the chapel. There we knelt in darkness to replicate keeping Jesus company in the garden of Gethsemane. I wish everyone could experience the power of this event.
When Jesus Christ rose from the dead, on Easter morning, he fulfilled the Old Testament requirements of a prophesied Messiah. Not one who came to rule a nation, but one befitting of the Son of God, who came to save the entire world. The darkness we experience on Holy Thursday and Good Friday is replaced with a fire of restoration late Saturday evening as we celebrate the Easter Vigil, or the sparkling dawn on Easter morning. As certain as the sun rises, we celebrate our risen Christ.
I am sometimes asked how I can believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that this is my chosen religion among so many others. It is because I see in Jesus someone who taught us to be our best selves. He taught us to love God, to love one another, to serve rather than to be served.
Yes, I believe it all. His birth to the Virgin Mary, his miracles, his crucifixion and resurrection. I believe he is the Son of God, one part of the Holy Trinity. But what compels my love for him is his goodness, his love for each of us, no matter how undeserving we are, his love endures. "For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him." (John 3:17)
The importance, I believe, of these days of Holy Week and Easter, are not only to honor God, but to renew our faith, to let us experience the miracle of life and death and love as only the Son of God could create.
Suzanne Anderson is the author of "Love in a Time of War" and other books. You can reach her at Suzanne@suzanneelizabeths.com or facebook.com/suzanneelizabeths