Throughout the Lenten season, we will post reflections for holy days and Sundays from both this year’s Lenten reflection booklet, Witnesses on the way, which includes all-new reflections written by National Council Chair Charlene Howard and her husband Michael Howard (and daily reflections from newly-named Ambassadors of Peace) and from previously published Lenten booklets, such as the one below, written by Linda Ballard, OSC, in 2006Click here to see all reflections as they are posted as well as links to other Lenten resources on our Lent 2023 webpage.

REFLECTION FOR holy Thursday, April 6, 2023

by Linda Ballard, OSC, originally published in 2006

Exodus 12:1-8, 11-14 | 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 | John 13:1-15

Tonight leads from banquet table to Cross that we might eat. It calls to mind an ancient slavery that we might long for freedom. It leads from places of honor to those of degradation so that we might witness faithfulness. It leads from living to dying so that we might have eternal life. It reminds us that the only authority we can hope to have begins with setting aside all that we thought we were.

burning candles at praying place in church
Photo by Julia Volk on

Tonight begins more than memory. It is our death grudgingly and haltingly moving toward life. If we are standing around arguing over who is eating and who is washing, we’ve confused ourselves.

Twelve was never just a number, as if it was all that could be managed at a formal dinner party. It was always a reminder of wholeness lost through human failure. It was a sign of completeness that could only be recreated by God. To enter into 12 is to shift the axis of the cosmos. To worry about only 12 is to miss the point.

Holiness is born of wholeness. “You must have part in me” was the challenge that Jesus offered Peter (John 13:8). Faithful discipleship is not possible apart from a life in Christ. No leadership is possible from one who will not be broken to follow. We struggle – separated, broken, sinful, and alone – until we are grasped by Wholeness who knelt before us to give us meaning and hung above us to give us life.

“Fully aware,” Jesus included Judas at table. He welcomed even his betrayer to eat. Wholeness is a fragile thing. Discipleship is more than sacred history. Disciples, then and now, are those called to negotiate the confusion and pain of sacred mystery. We fool ourselves if we think that disciples make a difference because they learn to lead. They only matter because on a different day they learn to follow.

And so must we. We must wash. Even Judas could recite. We must release our lives into the bread broken and our dreams into the cup poured. We must eat and beg God to make us whole. Whole hearts can live compassion and find the courage to negotiate justice. Whole lives might even attempt forgiveness.

So wash. Eat. Then to the garden to watch, to wait, to adore. Tonight even PRESENCE begs not to be alone.


  • In my today, as I reflected on the Last Supper, O PRESENCE, did I see you?
  • Did I let you pull me closer or did I try to send you away?
  • With me and without me, you have changed me. Do I have the courage to ask how?

>> Click here to see more resources for prayer, study and action this Lenten season.

>> Join the Virtual Good Friday Way of the Cross for Economic and Ecological Justice, April 7, noon-1 PM Eastern, organized by the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns; Pax Christi USA is one of the participating organizations. Use this link to register.

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