On the Gospel of John 13:1-15
As we contemplate the Last Supper of Our Lord on Holy Thursday, we are given a catechesis on service in the Gospel passage. As Our Lord institutes the Eucharist, the Sacrament where He gives us His very Body and Blood to consume, Jesus teaches us that in receiving the Eucharist, we are called into communion with one another. In the Gospel reading, Jesus washes the feet of His disciples, and in so doing, portrays Himself in the role of a servant. Jesus teaches us that if we want to grow in communion with one another, we must learn to be of service to those is need, acting out of complete self-less love. It is very important that we truly understand that in receiving the Holy Eucharist, we are allowed to come into the most intimate union with God, that we can experience here on earth. This most intimate union with God, however, must flow outwards and fuel the union of love that we have with one another as the Body of Christ.
In reflecting upon the image of Our Lord washing the feet of His disciples, we cannot help but think back to His triumphant entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. As Jesus entered Jerusalem, the people saw in Him a leader who might rise up against the oppressive civil authorities. These people, while heralding the greatness of His glory, did not understand the kind of messiah that Jesus was. As seen in this evening’s Gospel, Jesus Christ leads by example through his gift of selfless love. He washed the feet of His disciples and in so doing showed them that leadership involves service of one another, in love. So often, we look to our earthly leaders as messiah figures and see in their promises the hope of a utopia here on earth, just as some of the Jews wanted Jesus to bring about an earthly utopia. Jesus, however, shows us that His Kingdom is not of this world and His victory is achieved through the Cross and the outpouring of love that flows from His Crucifixion. As Christians, we know that suffering in this world is inevitable, but we can unite our suffering to the suffering of Jesus, and in so doing, share in the redemptive power of the Passion of Christ. As we continue on the sometimes difficult journey of life, we always have the hope that one day we would be united with God in Heaven. It is this joyful hope that allows us to look upon the devastating image of the Cross, always and know that the Resurrection follows.
As we move through the Easter Triduum, beginning on Holy Thursday, we must relate everything we do to the Crucifixion, Death and Resurrection of Our Lord. In our contemplation of the institution of the Holy Eucharist, we need to come to a deeper understanding of the mystery of Calvary. It is through the Cross that humankind is set free from sin and Christ conquers death’s hold on humanity. While in St John’s Gospel there is a different approach to his telling of the events of the last Supper to that which is in the Synoptic Gospels, this does not mean that St John values the Eucharist any less. We know this because St John provides us with an important understanding of the Eucharist in chapter six of his Gospel. In this chapter, even as some of Jesus’ followers would not accept what He was saying, St John claims that Jesus said clearly, “truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life and I will raise him up on the last day,” (John 6: 53-54). We believe everything that Jesus tells us, and therefore know that when we partake of the Eucharist, we are consuming the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord. This is not a symbolic action, it is truly what Jesus says it is and in receiving the Eucharist, we are given the opportunity to enter into what might be described as a “Heavenly Marriage” with the Lamb of God. The Eucharist gives us an earthly taste of the complete unity with God that we receive in Heaven, a unity which fulfills our every desire.
Let us today renew our faith in the Holy Eucharist and allow our love of God to flow outward into our relationship with others, where selfless love is infiltrated into all that we do.
It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!” Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean. When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.