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Br Robert O'Connor, FMS


What an array of images we encounter in the scriptures of these final days of Lent: a last meal together for Jesus and his disciples; the end of Jesus public ministry through  much of which he has ‘scandalised’ his listeners with confronting stories of the ‘reign  of God’; the taking of elements of bread and wine, staples for the ancient world - to become a remembrance of what He has done for us – making the ordinary, extraordinary; and ultimately, washing feet, the action of a slave! 

At the heart of it all is Jesus’ message to us all – to remember who He has been for us and what He has done for us. A wonderful word that: REMEMBER! 

Many would name its opposite: FORGET; and of course so it is. But a much more insightful opposite is DIS-MEMBER. Jesus knows us so well; and knows that often we allow the elements of our lives to become distorted, torn apart; dis-membered

What Maundy Thursday invites us to, is to RE-MEMBER who I am and what my journey has been with its darkness and light, its delights and disappointments, its joys and sorrows. In a quite paradoxical way, all that my journey has been - despite ‘stuff-ups’- is good, for it is this very journey that has shaped me, warts and all; and amazingly this is the me Jesus loves –warts and all! 

I recall some years ago on Retreat praying the story of the Samaritan Woman [Jn.4:7-30] a truly ‘scandalous’ story to Jesus’ listeners. He is talking not just to a woman (women were at the lower end of the social ‘pecking’ order; and she was a “not-one-of-us” woman anyway, but indeed a ‘marginalised’ woman because respectable women did not go the well at midday, but in the morning with the other women of the village; and as well she was into her fifth husband!). Yet Jesus engages, invites her into conversation, and so she experiences the ‘reign of God’. She hurries back to the village ‘Come and see a man who has told me everything I have ever done!’ 

I recall during that prayer-time how many ‘negative’ events from my life, began to rattle around in me. But echoing in my mind and heart was the reality that ‘this is the one who knows all I have ever done!’ Jesus’ message was clear: ‘You are the one I love, just as you are, warts and all!’

So for all of us, in a quite paradoxical way, all the ups and downs of each of our lives have shaped who I now am: the one He loves. 

It is a risk when we sometimes read the Gospel story as a dialogue about who is in and who is out, who has ticked all the right boxes! Jesus’ stories, again and again make very clear that no one is left out. We are all in: “the reign of God” is in and among us all - “but we do not recognise him!” 

Probably Jesus’ best known story of ‘the prodigal son’ captures this central message that however much I have wandered, however bad I sometimes feel, this God of ours, is always watching for us to turn back; and when we do, he runs to us, embraces us and throws a party! 

The foot-washing of the liturgy of Holy Thursday says it all: ‘I do not see you other than my daughter, my son; and I love you! ‘ 

May each of us this Easter, rejoice as we RE-MEMBER what the Lord has done in my life so far. 

REFLECTION: In my imagination, as I let Jesus wash my feet, see Him look into my eyes and remind me of how precious I am to Him, even as I recall the ‘wounds’ that I may think separate me from him. 

PRAYER: Jesus, as I walk these final days of Lent with you, draw me close, encourage me in my journey, and help me to re-member that you are always at my side, reaching down to wash my feet.

Br Robert O’Connor, FMS. Bob is part of the Provincial House Community at Drummoyne and since finishing in school leadership in 2002 he became part of the Marist Life Formation Team. He is also currently Spiritual Director/Consultant for the Province. His areas of interest and study at  Loyola University Chicago and the Catholic University of Dayton Ohio, have been Spirituality, Scripture and Marian Studies. 

Previously Bob has been in schools for almost 50 years, including Principalships of Mt Maria College Brisbane; Marcellin College Randwick, and Marist College Ashgrove.

Morgan Lee