Apr 5, 2012

"Do as I do."

Lord, wash my feet

Abraham Lincoln once shared that he felt the Civil War was a punishment from God upon this Nation for the evil of slavery.  There is no doubt that the objectifying of any human being as a kind of beast of burden whose personal freedom is highly restricted is a great evil.  Although Lincoln was not convinced that the African man was equal to the white man, nonetheless he knew that slavery was inherently evil.
This Holy Thursday we find Jesus in an extreme position of servitude that no doubt scandalized his own Apostles.  That he would take upon himself the role of the lowest of house servants as he washed their feet shortly before sharing in the Last Supper.
Though it was not exactly slavery, those who fulfilled the function of washing feet for the “higher up’s” were not exactly among those climbing the social ladder. Yet as St. Paul reminded us last Sunday in the second reading from Phillipians 2: 6-11: “He emptied himself, taking the form of a slave . . .” 
So, this was an unforgettable, totally unexpected reversal of roles for the sake of setting an example that would last for all time.  It was a time in which Jesus spoke directly to his Apostles who he knew would be taking the place of leadership in the early days of the Christian faith.  It would be up to them to lead with the mind of Jesus. With the help of the Holy Spirit these men, with the exception of the tragic figure of Judas, would be responsible for the spread of the Gospel under what soon was seen as hostile and challenging conditions.
So, how should they lead? Only be example as Jesus himself gave his life, so too must they assume not superiority but as loving shepherds who lead by service to others. Just as Jesus washed their feet in humility, so too must they and we.  As Jesus reminds us in the great mandate of selfless love:
“If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet . . . as I have done for you, you should also do.” (Jn 13:15). It was for them and continues to be for us the ultimate model of Christian leadership and service. The lives of so many Saints have proven this over and over again: St. Vincent de Paul, St. John Vianney, Blessed Mother Teresa, etc.
But it is also where the Eucharist leads us.  For if washing feet was not enough, Jesus continued with the meal in which he gave himself even further in the bread and wine of that Last Supper with his disciples.  As the example of love was meant to be perpetual, so too is the Eucharist meant to be for all time: “Do this in memory of me.”
As we move further into the Sacred Triduum, three days of remembrance in Thursday, Friday and Saturday, we have much to ponder.  This grand story of betrayal, self-sacrifice, selfless love, pain, suffering but ultimate glory is our story as well. 
Below is a link to the readings for both Holy Thursday evening liturgy and that of Good Friday.  May it be a time for us of renewal. 
Good Friday of the Lord's Passion: http://usccb.org/bible/readings/040612.cfm
Much to look forward to at this Holy Saturday evening Vigil in the waters of new life.