That We May Be More

One of the graces God gave me was the chance to study in the Holy Land for four years. A month before my ordination as deacon, I made a retreat with my classmates at the Dormition Abbey in Jerusalem. This place is very near the Upper Room, the site where tradition says Jesus had his Last Supper with his apostles.
One afternoon, during the time of our personal reflection, I went on my own to the Upper Room. I was alone. This historical site is quite big. When I arrived it was empty. No furniture; no tables and chairs. I just had to sit down on the pavement. At that moment I just tried to imagine what happened there in one of the last nights of Jesus’ life.
I could imagine the whole room transformed with furnishings, carpet and curtains. Perhaps a long and beautifully decorated presidential table would be at the center with the disciples sitting together in the company of Christ just as we see in Leonardo Da Vinci’s obra. How would the apostles look like, I wonder. Were they able to eat and drink well knowing that it was Jesus’ last night on earth?
Most of all, I tried to picture Jesus. How tall would he be? I could imagine his long, flowing hair and his signature beard. What would be the color of his eyes? Blue? Green? Red – soaked with tears? Would his face be more handsome than Dingdong Dantes or Gerard Anderson? The fact is, artists for centuries have tried to portray Jesus in art – in canvas, murals or sculpture. I’m sure all of us have our own pre-conceived features of Jesus. We see him depicted so often as a crucified victim, the Good Shepherd or the Teacher instructing his disciples.
But in this Upper Room, in one of the holiest nights of the year, we see a very different picture of Jesus. Jesus is not presented in his best form – not the powerful miracle worker or the glorious messiah. We see him on his knees, wiping dirt, washing feet. We see a God getting down from his pedestal, coming down from his ivory tower for us. He lowers himself. He becomes a servant, a humble slave. He tells us: “I have given you a model to follow. As I have done, so also, you should do!” From this Upper Room, Jesus would like us to learn three things: service, sacrifice and simplicity.
Jesus wants us to serve. I heard a story of a barber in the USA who decided to offer his “hair-cutting” as a community service for a month. It would all be free. A customer came and he did him his usual service. But when he was about to pay, the barber told him it was gratis! Imagine the surprise and joy of the man. He thanked him profusely and left. The next morning, the barber found boxes of grocery items in front of his shop. There was a note of thanks from yesterday’s customer who owned a convenient store. That day, a second customer came and had his hair cut. When he was about to pay, he was told the cut was free. The man almost cried in disbelief and left. The next day, the barber found boxes of bread in front of his shop from his 2nd customer. The man was a baker. The barber’s 3rd customer was a Filipino. After his hair cut, the Pinoy was so thankful for the community service the barber was doing. He even asked for his calling card. The next day the barber was surprise to see a long line of Filipinos in front of his shop for a “free hair cut.”
In Jesus, we see God offering his service not for what He can get but for what he can give – an example for us to follow.
Jesus showed the depth of his love through sacrifice. In the Upper Room we also remember the institution of the Eucharist and gift of the Priesthood. Here, we priests recall the origins of our vocation. It’s a life of sacrifice. We give up home, career, having a wife, family and children for a greater calling: to follow Christ. Yet, all of us are also called to a life of sacrifice in our own particular vocations.
I just came with the seminarians from our Summer Camp in Panay Island. We had an overnight in the military camp at Camp Peralta in Jamindan, Capiz. There, I realize what sacrifice our soldiers have to undergo. They freely give up their right to live near their family and relatives. They brave weather conditions, rain or shine. If duty calls, they bear with isolation or even.
Many of us too have our own silent sacrifices as parents, grandparents or as a brother or sister. Our sacrifices will never be heard or splashed on the front pages of  news papers. These are the sacrifices, like that of Jesus, which can save the world.
Jesus teaches us simplicity. In the Upper Room, we see Jesus as a simple man; a simple friend. No greater love than this, for a man to lay down his life for his friends. The people who make a difference in our lives are not the ones with the most credentials, the most money or the most awards. They are simply the ones who care and love us.
In the Upper Room, God despite his grandeur, greatness and glory, makes himself less so that we can be more. He humbles himself so that we can be great! If we want to know how Jesus looked like, we won’t find it in art, in painting or pictures. We find it in the Gospel as he was portrayed in the Upper Room. Here, on his knees with his head bowed in humility and love, doing the dirty work of a slave, we see the true image of Christ. And here in this Upper Room we see him appear three days later resurrected. Love conquers all.
Service, sacrifice and simplicity are expressions of God’s love which is stronger than death; even stronger than hell. As He has done, so also we should do. Happy Easter!
Disclaimer: This section of the website is a personal creative writing of the author and does not necessarily reflect the official views, opinion, or policies of the Salesians of Don Bosco – Philippines South Province. For concerns on the content, style, and grammar of this piece, please contact us.

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