Maundy Thursday and the cure for loneliness

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Maundy Thursday and the cure for loneliness

April 2, 2015 - Jim Denison, PhD

A depiction of Luke 22:14-23, illustrating the Last Supper with Christ in the center, surrounded by eleven apostles, each reacting differently to His words, while the shadow of the departing Judas is seen in the background (Credit: Walter Rane)

“We must love one another or die.”  W. H. Auden’s assertion has now been proven. (Tweet this) Researchers tell us that emotional loneliness is as high a risk factor for mortality as smoking.  Tumors can metastasize faster in those who are lonely.   Loneliness causes or exacerbates Alzheimer’s, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and neurodegenerative diseases.

Mother Teresa once observed that “in the developing world there is an epidemic of poverty, in the West an epidemic of loneliness.”  In a 2010 survey, one out of three adults said they were “chronically lonely,” meaning that they’ve been lonely for an extended time.  A decade earlier, only one in five said that.

How is Maundy Thursday relevant to loneliness?

Today is known by a variety of names: “Maundy Thursday” (Church of England), “Holy Thursday” (Catholic and Methodist), “Covenant Thursday” (Coptic), “Great and Holy Thursday” (Eastern Orthodox), and “Thursday of Mysteries” (Syriac Orthodox).  If I were to give today another name, it would be “Communion Thursday.”

On this day in Holy Week, Jesus led his disciples in the Last Supper, a meal many traditions call “Communion.”  But our Lord extended communion beyond this event.  He prayed fervently for his disciples and all of us as well (John 17).  Then he retreated to the Garden of Gethsemane, where he told Peter, James and John, “Remain here, and watch with me” (Matthew 26:38).  On this day the Son of God knew how desperately he needed to be with his Father, and with his friends.

Shouldn’t every day be Communion Thursday for us?

In Jesus Calling, author Sarah Young envisions Jesus saying to us, “You yearn for a simplified lifestyle, so that your communication with Me can be uninterrupted.  But I challenge you to relinquish the fantasy of an uncluttered world.  Accept each day just as it comes, and find Me in the midst of it all.”

How?  “Remember that your ultimate goal is not to control or fix everything around you; it is to keep communing with Me.  A successful day is one in which you have stayed in touch with Me, even if many things remain undone at the end of the day.  Do not let your to-do list (written or mental) become an idol directing your life.  Instead, ask my Spirit to guide you moment by moment.”

The One who sought communion with his disciples on this day 20 centuries ago longs for communion with you today.  Cambridge scholar William Law noted, “He who has learned to pray has learned the greatest secret of a holy and happy life.”

Will today be Communion Thursday for you?

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are from the ESV®️ Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®️), copyright ©️ 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. The ESV text may not be quoted in any publication made available to the public by a Creative Commons license. The ESV may not be translated in whole or in part into any other language.

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