Apr 2, 2015

So you must do

To do God's will is often unclear. As St. Paul reminds us: "We walk by faith and not by sight." (2 Cor 5: 7) so we carry on in trust as best we can with the support of prayer, the Church, our brothers and sisters in the faith, the sacraments and our personal faith.  But tonight it is starkly clear to us of what it means to truly be a follower of Jesus Christ. In addition to trust of God it also demands loyalty to his Son. "As I have done for you, so you must also do" is not a suggestion.  It is the great mandatum - the command of Jesus.

True faith seeks loyalty but this evening we are reminded of that moment when Jesus, after offering himself as the new lamb of sacrifice at the meal, needed his disciples the most. Yet they later fled from the Garden not long after he had shared with them his body and his blood.  Looking back, it may be hard for us to understand how they could have abandoned Jesus at a time when he needed them to be loyal.  But they did so perhaps out of fear for their own lives as they witnessed Jesus' capture. 

At the Last Supper with Jesus we know well of Judas' betrayal.  Whether it was his intent to actually betray Jesus, which is somewhat hard to imagine, or his hope to push Jesus in a direction where he hoped he would act against the authorities, it all went badly for him.  Then of course there is Peter.  In a sense he betrayed Jesus even more than Judas by pretending he didn't even know him not just once but three times!  Later, Peter felt remorse for what he did and deep sorrow. Judas sadly gave in to despair. If Judas had gone the way of Peter would Jesus had forgiven him?  Of course as he did Peter (Jn 21: 9-14).

Further, we don't know how the disciples reacted to Jesus' words: This is my body given for you . . . this is the cup of the new covenant in my blood. (Lk 22: 19-20). Knowing him as they did, they must have been struck by the odd connection between the Passover ritual using bread (matzo) and wine and Jesus own personalization of those elements. "This must have some spiritual significance since Jesus is often mysterious in his images," they might have wondered. But it wasn't long before Jesus was left alone to endure his greatest suffering - for them and for us.

The Holy Eucharist is the center and summit of our Christian faith and we as Catholics have preserved this greatest of all treasures.  A mystery indeed.  When we receive the Eucharist we must remember that we are not receiving a "thing."  We are encountering a person - the Eucharist is a "He" living and true who has made himself our food - the Bread of Life. It is truly Christ come among us. As Fr. Robert Barron reminded us so beautifully in his series Catholicism: "What Jesus says - is."

What it all implies, as Jesus shared with his disciples that unforgettable night, is that we wash the feet of one another.  Pope Francis made headline news when he abandoned liturgical correctness and humbly washed the feet of the imprisoned, the forgotten no more.  Again this year he will do the same.  We too are called to do no less.

The Eucharist is not a thing - it is a Person who invites us to abandon selfishness, fear, pride and preconceived ideas of status and position and to remain loyal to him.  This night let us be who we are called to be when we receive our Lord, body, blood, soul and divinity in this most sacred meal of remembrance. 

John 13: 1-15

Before the feast of Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come
to pass from this world to the Father.
He loved his own in the world and he loved them to the end.
The devil had already induced Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot, to hand him over.
So, during supper,
fully aware that the Father had put everything into his power
and that he had come from God and was returning to God,
he rose from supper and took off his outer garments.
He took a towel and tied it around his waist.
Then he poured water into a basin
and began to wash the disciples’ feet
and dry them with the towel around his waist.
He came to Simon Peter, who said to him,
“Master, are you going to wash my feet?”
Jesus answered and said to him,
“What I am doing, you do not understand now,
but you will understand later.”
Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.”
Jesus answered him,
“Unless I wash you, you will have no inheritance with me.”
Simon Peter said to him,
“Master, then not only my feet, but my hands and head as well.”
Jesus said to him,
“Whoever has bathed has no need except to have his feet washed,
for he is clean all over;
so you are clean, but not all.”
For he knew who would betray him;
for this reason, he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

So when he had washed their feet
and put his garments back on and reclined at table again,
he said to them, “Do you realize what I have done for you?
You call me ‘teacher’ and ‘master,’ and rightly so, for indeed I am.
If I, therefore, 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.”