Daily Reflection – 4/9/2020
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.” (John 13:1-15)
Today’s sacred scripture brings us into one of the most intimate scenarios in the Gospels. It is intimate in terms of the human emotion that is present in the room. It is intimate in terms of how deeply it speaks to us of God’s love for us. It is intimate because if we follow its command of love, we are bound one to another.
Imagine if you will the emotions in that room. The closest disciples of Jesus had accompanied him on his triumphant entry into Jerusalem. The streets had been packed with people waving psalms and hailing his as The Chosen One. Now they gathered with their rabbi to celebrate the feast of Passover when families gathered together in a seder as their ancestors had done through the centuries.
And then there was the emotion of Jesus. Totally aware of that which awaited Him, yet serenely at peace. Part of that peace came from His knowledge that he was about to fulfill His father’s will. Part of that peace came from His knowledge that this evening he was to teach them His final lesson. I have to believe that the heart of the human Jesus was filled with the enormity of what was about to happen.
Then the room grows quiet as this man just days earlier hailed as the Messiah kneels before his disciples and begins to wash their feet. The Master becomes the Servant in an absolutely moment of humility and intimacy.
Peter is overwhelmed most of all. He demurs. But Jesus reminds him that “Unless I wash you, you will have no inheritance with me.” This was not in reference only to the washing of Peter’s feet, it was an eternal washing of his immortal soul and the water would soon flow from the pierced heart of Jesus himself. Washing the disciples’ feet symbolizes the ultimate service Jesus is about to give to them by giving up his life on the cross. It serves also as a model for how the disciples are to love one another.
And when that was complete, Jesus instructs them about love. A love that was beyond anything they had ever known. In fact, it was and is a love that few of us can truly emulate yet it is a love that is commanded of us.
Washing the disciples’ feet symbolizes the ultimate service Jesus is about to give to them by giving up his life on the cross. It serves also as a model for how the disciples are to love one another. It means to serve one another in radical forms of love. It means to wash one another’s feet. This symbolizes the disciples’ willingness to lay down their lives for one another just as Jesus did for them.
Jesus refer to this kind of love as a “new commandment.” It is new in that it demands radical equality among the disciples and the ones they serve. We are to become one with our sisters and brothers in need; we are to serve them. We are to become one with our sisters and brothers in need; we are to serve them. This is the kind of action that comes forth naturally when we believe—as Jesus did—in the radical equality of all human beings.
Jesus clearly emphasizes the importance of serving others. He tells them: “Whoever receives the one I send receives me and they also receive the One who sent me!” Yes, Jesus wants his disciples to love God and one another. However, they also are to love each person they meet, even if they do not particularly like that individual. They are to love and serve everyone, just as Jesus did.
There is our “mandatum” as well. We are to become one with our sisters and brothers in need; we are to serve them. This is the kind of action that comes forth naturally when we believe—as Jesus did—in the radical equality of all human beings.
I think in this day and age, one of the most beautiful and precious gifts we have to offer is gentleness. We need gentle people. We need gentle Christians. This is becoming such a harsh and judgmental society; where we immediately think the worst of everyone, where we are quick to judge, where we blame those receiving benefits for being too lazy, where we accuse migrants and refugees of taking our jobs and homes, and those in authority for being too selfish, where the motorist in front goes too slow, and the next-door neighbor too noisy, and the young people on the streets too violent and anti-social. Society is slipping back into a harshness and a judgmentalism that is sad and aggressive.
We are called to gentleness and non-judgmentalism and a showing of unconditional love to all those we know, even the weak and vulnerable; and those who make a mess of their own lives. After all, that is what God has done for us: he is gentle with us, isn’t he? God doesn’t bear a grudge or give us a hard time for messing up so regularly, and we should follow in his footsteps by treating others with the same gentleness and patience and kindness as God has shown to us.
Prayer of The Day
“Lord Jesus, your love conquers all and never fails. Help me to love others freely, with heart-felt compassion, kindness and goodness. Where there is injury, may I sow peace rather than strife.”
Jesus didn’t die for us because we deserved it. He didn’t die for us because we had somehow earned God’s grace and love. There is nothing that you or I have ever done that has made us deserving of a relationship with God. Instead, as the Bible tells us, he died for us even when we were far off and lost from God.
The fact that you and I constantly make a mess of our lives is not any reason for God to withdraw his love from us. Jesus didn’t set conditions on his love. He never said that we need to do something first in order for him to love us. He never waited until we had proved ourselves worthy of love. Jesus’ love was absolutely unconditional.
Reflect, this night, upon those sacred words of our Lord and hear them spoken to you: “Unless I wash you, you will have no inheritance with me.” Say “Yes” to this offer of perfect humility and mercy from our Lord and let the saving Sacrifice of the Son of God enter more deeply into your life than ever before.