Christians the world over observe this week as the “Holy Week”, commemorating Jesus Christ’s very last days, leading to his humiliating death on the cross on Good Friday, but ending with joy on Easter Sunday when he defeated death by resurrection. The week began already last Sunday — the Palm Sunday which signifies Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem, where after having his many miracles, the crowd waved palms, singing “Hosanna”, wanting to crown him their King. But this was unacceptable to the authorities and they decided to get rid of him. He was brought before Pilate, the Roman governor, who though finding no fault in him, finally caved into the pressure from the crowd, which demanded to crucify Jesus. He died a criminal’s death at about 3 pm on Friday. But before Jesus could be arrested, he dined with his disciples his “Last Supper” on Thursday.
While this was to celebrate the annual Jewish Passover feast — the “Pasch” — commemorating the freedom the Jews gained through God’s intervention from the Egyptian Pharaoh, Jesus used this opportunity to do two significant things. As a cleansing act before meals, he got up and washed the feet of his disciples, setting a supreme example of humble service. He said: “If I the Lord and Master have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet”. In doing so, he established the sacrament of priesthood. The most important thing, however, followed when at table, he took bread, broke it and gave to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat, this is my body”. He did the same with wine, saying, “Take and drink, this is my blood”. Like the disciples who did not fathom this act then, many find it difficult to comprehend it even today, leave alone accept it.
Jesus was, however, referring to his impending death the next day. His body and blood would be sacrificed as ransom for humanity but his real presence would continue as often as the memory of the “Last Supper” would be celebrated in the Holy Mass until today. Seeing no hope that Jesus would escape the clutches of death, some disciples abandoned him. A loyal disciple, Peter, too, developed cold feet when he saw the furious crowd instigated by the authorities against his master. Sadly, despite Jesus forewarning him, thrice he denied having anything to do with him. Thus, left painfully alone, moments before he breathed his last crying, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me”, Jesus consciously prayed for his enemies. “Father forgive them, for they know not what they are doing”. No wonder then that many people who suffer in their lives, find help as they contemplate on Jesus’ rigorous suffering on the cross.Many others also find it in their hearts to “forgive their enemies”.