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Holy Thursday

“Do you realize what I have done for you? …. If I, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.” Jn. 13:14-15

It is important to remember that historically foot washing in the time of Jesus was a menial task performed by slaves to welcome a dignitary hosted by the slave’s master.

It was something an inferior would do for a superior.

For Jesus, it became what one scholar called a “loving act of abasement.”
Jesus lays down everything for us – titles, claims to authority, domination of any kind, even his Godhead.

On this night, remembered so beautifully and poignantly in our Gospel reading, Jesus begins his last meal with his closest followers by laying down his outer garment to wash feet, and then, on Good Friday, he lays down his inner garment, his body, on a cross.

The message that Jesus is sending to his disciples at the Last Supper, and to each one of us who dine with him at the Eucharist, is not just spoken through words to us, but is dramatized for us by his actions – just in case we missed the point.

The message is this:
The community of the followers of Jesus, the Church, are to be people who distinguish themselves through the mutual sharing of gifts. Unlike the rest of society, there is to be no domination of one over another. We are all on the same level. We are all equal in the reign of God. No one is above or below in any way.
More than that, Jesus is demonstrating for us that knowledge of Christ alone is not enough. Instead, our life decisions must be informed by him. Our behavior is what counts. And that is to be modeled by the behavior of Jesus. We are invited to act always in memory of him.

“I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you shouldalso do.”

The Foot Washing is done only once a year, and yet, according to the Gospel of John, it is fully a part of the same sacred meal we celebrate each Sunday, the Eucharist.

Consequently, the more we can meditate upon this dimension of the Mass, this ministry of humble service to one another, the more each of us will be able to remember what we are really doing when we receive the Body and Blood of Jesus – deepening our commitment to a life of giving away ourselves for others.

Just as Jesus did.

As we take the Body and Blood of Christ into our own bodies this evening, then, let us remind ourselves of the words of St. Augustine – words which reflect both the amazement of what we get to do, as well as the commitment we make together:
“Behold what you are; become what you receive.”

Or, better yet, let us again recall Jesus’ own words:
“Do you realize what I have done for you? …. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.”

Ted Wolgamot, Psy.D.

Art by Jim Matarelli
Sister Rachel’s Quote of the Week

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