Thursday, April 9, 2009
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."
Rev. Hugh Cleary, C.S.C. '69
Superior General, Congregation of Holy Cross
I once had my feet washed. It was unexpected; it was humbling - humbling in the sense that I was caught in a position I didn't want. Yet I had no control over what was happening. I had to accept it, I had no choice.
It was during my first visit to Bangladesh - Bangladesh, one of the poorest, if not the poorest country in the world. I was visiting the Holy Cross formation house where young Bangladeshis were preparing themselves for a perpetual commitment to the consecrated life and to priesthood.
The young men were waiting outside for me, their guest. When I approached they began to sing while one of them placed a garland of beautiful, fragrant flowers around my neck. They were warm and enthusiastic in their greeting. Their courtesies were both touching and surprising; I had never experienced such a welcome.
While still in astonishment by this gracious reception I was lead to a simple chair and seated. In moments my shoes and socks were removed. I was bewildered and then incredulous when two of the young men knelt before me and began to wash my feet. This ancient Eastern custom of hospitality caught me totally unawares.
I wanted to protest. These young men, some barefoot others in simple sandals, were doing for me what I, at least metaphorically, wanted to do for them. I had come to encourage them as they were discovering what God might have in mind for them, wanting to assure them of the wider Congregation's gratitude for their prayerful consideration of a vocation within Holy Cross. Instead, it was their desire to encourage me, as they welcomed me with their heart-felt love and respect.
Our Christian faith is replete with paradoxes, contradictions and inconsistencies. We are told it is better to give than to receive but we truly rely on receiving. We do not belong to ourselves; we belong to God. We are first loved by God; there is no existence without that love. We are called to live and move and have our very being within God's love. We only find the absolute truth of life's essence when we allow ourselves to be first loved. It is only then that true love can be given otherwise love is simply pretended, replicated in virtual simulation. We are the beneficiaries of salvation by the One who loves us first. It is then, only then, that we able give another, many others, every other, genuine love.
After Jesus washed their feet he said to them: "Do you understand what I just did for you? You address me as 'Teacher' and 'Lord,' but if I washed your feet, then you must wash each other's feet. What I have done, so you must do."