Gospel of John 13:1-15
I have desperately been seeking joy this Lenten season. I have been diligent, though not perfect, in my Lenten commitments and I have struggled to remain true to the spirit and purpose of the desert journey to which Holy Mother Church has called us all. Yet, despite my successes and/or failures these last 6 weeks have been a period of “blah”.
I share this not as a complaint, nor as a plea for sympathy.
Our Christian walk is not supposed to be easy… right? But, are we not all called to be joy filled? If you can appreciate those two things than you can appreciate my struggle this Lenten season.
As the Body of Christ, we have come to this somber celebration together. Tonight, Holy Thursday, begins the Holy Tridium, a Tradition of the Church that dates back to the earliest days of our faith. The oldest and official name of tonight’s celebration is, Thursday of the Lord’s Supper, as it commemorates the historical Gospel events surrounding the Last Supper and the institution of the Eucharist. But, for those of us who may not be as official or as old, tonight is often referred to as the night of “washing feet.”
According to John’s Gospel Jesus interrupts the Passover supper, removes his outer garment, ties a towel around his waist and washes his disciples’ feet. This task was typically left to the lowliest of servants, yet Jesus, the master, assumed the role and took up the task; a task that had been left undone by all those present.
The Gospel clearly states this act of service came from love; “He loved his own in the world and he loved them to the end”, and from knowledge, “So fully aware that the Father had put everything into his power…” Jesus from his love, and in the knowledge of the will of the Father, gave us the gift of his example and served.
He also gave us a command, “I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.”
I wonder what would happen if I was as dedicated to obeying this command as I was to following the other, less difficult commands. Seriously, how would things be different if I were as committed to obeying the example of Jesus the servant as I was to going to Sunday mass, or receiving the sacrament of reconciliation, or observing days of fasting and abstinence, or adhering to other less significant local or cultural customs of our faith? Would my family life, my work life, and my parish life look and feel different? Would my thinking, my words, my actions, and most importantly my relationships change if I were as diligent to the service of others as I am to adhering to the basic rules of Catholicism?
How would your life be different? Would your home, your friends, your work environment, your parish be better or worse if you lived your life obediently to the command of Jesus; “as I have done for you, you should also do”? Would you find peace instead of discord? Would you find love instead of hate? Would you rejoice in struggle or despair? Would you find joy… instead of sorrow?
I do. I absolutely believe that following the command of Jesus to serve, to truly serve in love and in obedience to the will of the Father, would result in a joy filled life. I believe this because Jesus, on his final night with his disciples, gave them his greatest gifts; the gift of serving one another, and the gift of the Eucharist.
Was this an afterthought? Was this an, “oh, and by the way”? Of course not! Jesus in his final moments, knowing that he was leaving his disciples to do the work of building God’s Kingdom on earth, modeled for them the gift of service and instituted the gift of the Eucharist.
This was not an either-or scenario. His intention was not that we pick or choose one over the other. Rather, his instruction was that we lovingly do both. His gift of the Eucharist and his gift of service compels us to serve one another always in every way and to receive the Eucharist. We do these both as we live out our salvation and share the Good News of Jesus to those who are lost, hurting, and alone.
My brothers and sisters, we now begin the waiting. We now begin the waiting for the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Tonight, the blessed sacrament will be processed and the altar will be stripped, and we will enter into a somber period of patient reflection as we await the joyous celebration of Easter. The celebration that indeed our Savior is risen. That indeed our Savior is alive and is preparing a place for us, and that indeed he will someday soon call us all to him. That, my friends, is indeed the very reason for our joy! Amen?