What is Maundy Thursday Anyway?

Thoughts on Greatness

Today, in the Philippines, is yet another non-working holiday, and it’s part of what is known as “Holy Week”.

(I’ll make one comment about “non-working” days, and it’s this: Don’t let your work schedule be dictated by social conventions but by your goals.)

But anyway, a simple practice I’ve adopted is to Google the actual event that a holiday is based on, so I at least learn something new.

So, what is Maundy Thursday anyway?

“Maundy Thursday or Holy Thursday (also known as Great and Holy Thursday, Holy and Great Thursday, Covenant Thursday, Sheer Thursday, and Thursday of Mysteries, among other names) is the Christian holy day falling on the Thursday before Easter. It commemorates the Washing of the Feet (Maundy) and Last Supper of Jesus Christ with the Apostles, as described in the canonical gospels.


I never knew that! 😂 Or maybe I did but forgot. I’m sure I was told that at some point, but good to be reminded. I was quickly struck by how some traditions call it Great Thursday considering that it is about washing feet. And it reminded me of these verse from Mark:

“And Jesus called them to him and said to them, ”You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.””

‭‭Mark‬ ‭10:42-45‬ ‭ESV‬‬

This made me reflect on two Maundy Thursday questions:

  1. Am I the kind of person who lords over people and uses my authority as leverage over others? Or have I given my life to serve?

2. Am I following anyone (political, business, spiritual, etc.) who lords over people and uses his/her authority as leverage over others? Or am I following people who have given their lives to serve?

And as in all my reflections, some internal repentance and external changes were necessary.

While I can say I don’t use leverage against others, I must also admit that my heart many times reveals someone who has not given his life to serve, as seen by my entitlements. Unlike a true servant who knows he is fulfilling his role when he serves, I many times only feel fulfilled when my service is acknowledged or compensated.

I also decided to work with true servants not people who “lord over”. There are more important things than simply achieving an objective or order, and those are the lives of people. I want to work with people who truly see the value of a life, and so see the value of serving lives.

I’m one of those highly driven and highly energetic guys. Every day is packed with things to do, problems to solve, and goals to achieve. I think it comes from being fed a constant diet of “great lives” as a child, a diet my son, Elijah is now on as well. But I’ve used this morning, on this Great Thursday, to remind myself of what a great life really is, of what greatness, at least in the Christian tradition really looks like. And it looks like this:

“When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.”

‭‭John‬ ‭13:12-16‬ ‭ESV‬‬

It looks like a person of great honor, great capability, and great achievement, making himself vulnerable, and putting himself not in the high position he probably deserves but in the low position that actually serves, in order that others may be cleansed, not simply for cleanliness, but so that they may partake in the breaking of bread. (In this case, what followed was the Last Supper.) Maundy Thursday was Christ reminding us, especially those in authority, either through position, influence, or resource, to be the greatest at being the lowest.

In short, Google your holidays. It could lead to something. 😂 Seriously, use this time to reflect on Christ’s example of greatness. Are we walking the way of the servant in a world that true servants more than ever?

Epilogue: Why Are the Leaders of the Only Christian Nation in Southeast Asia So Corrupt?

I was told many times as a young boy that the Philippines was the only Christian nation in Southeast Asia. I never understood this because I knew many Christians from other countries in the region, know a lot Christ-like non-Christians (who I regarded highly), and know a lot more non-Christ-like Christians in the Philippines than anywhere else in the world. This list includes me and of course is biased to the fact that my primary social circles are in the Philippines.

But it is an empty title, a piece of vanity that doesn’t help the poor, starving, suffering, and unjustly treated. It doesn’t matter so much what religion we collectively identify with. What matters is this: Are the “leaders” and “great ones” lording over and exercising authors over others, or are they the best servants?

I’ve noticed more often than not, that in this country, people are more likely to use whatever leverage they can to get ahead. I’ve seen this in different levels of authority. When the leaders use whatever level of privilege they have over others, they set a precedent for corruption — no matter what deity they subscribe to.

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