Holy Thursday: Learning to Love from the God who Washes Feet
We behold Divine Love in service; pouring Himself out, like the water in that basin
Jesus Christ takes up the basin, towel and washcloth. We behold Divine Love in service; pouring Himself out, like the water in that basin, in order to make all those whose feet were embraced by His sacred humanity clean all over. This is the mystery of faith that we profess during these Holy Days and the way of loving service into which we are now invited.
Icon of Jesus washing the disciples feet
CHESAPEAKE, VA (Catholic Online) - On this Holy Thursday, as we begin the great Triduum, the Three Days, we will hear this wonderful account in the Gospel of St. John which reveals the depth of the Love of Jesus Christ and invites us into to a new way of living our lives now in Him:
"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.
"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)
How extraordinary! The God who fashioned the entire universe, who dwells in inaccessible light, is now present as a Man among men; serving the very humanity that had been created through Him. This God, before whom all the Nations will one day bend the knee, bends His human knee before the ones He had chosen to carry His redemptive mission forward until He returns in glory. This God of Love, Incarnate in Jesus Christ, takes up the basin, towel and washcloth.
We behold Divine Love in service; pouring Himself out, like the water in that basin, in order to make all those whose feet were embraced by His sacred humanity clean all over. This is the mystery of faith that we profess during these Holy Days, this the way of loving service into which are now invited through our Baptism into Christ. He lives His Life now in and through us and we live our lives now in Him, through our life in His Body, the Church.
St. John reminded the early Christians in the fourth chapter of the first letter he wrote after recording this Gospel of the implications of this event: "Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God. Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love. In this way the love of God was revealed to us: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might have life through him. In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also must love one another. No one has ever seen God. Yet, if we love one another, God remains in us, and his love is brought to perfection in us."
Here, in this poignant scene recorded by this beloved disciple John we encounter Jesus before he shares a final meal with his closest friends; before He who knew no sin would suffer for our sins and freely stretch out His sacred arms to embrace the entire world and join heaven to earth, showing the depth and substance of true love. Today we meet the God who washes feet.
Shortly after this act of servant love we read of the continuation of his "kenosis", his poured out Love. Jesus inaugurates the great meal, the holy exchange, the Holy Eucharist, giving Himself as food for those who will make the journey with Him back to the Father.
Then this Innocent One walks the way of suffering and mounts the altar of sacrifice to fully pour Himself out on behalf of us all and begin creation anew. As we enter into the "Triduum", the great three days, we are invited every year to make this mystery our own. No mere spectators in this Act of Love we are to become participants. Good Liturgy is not a reenactment of something that happened over 2000 years ago but an actual participation in the events themselves.
On Holy Thursday we will enter into the institution of the Eucharist where the eternal sacrifice of Calvary is truly made present. The Lamb of God becomes bread broken for others, wine poured out. No longer bread but His Body; no longer wine but His Blood. Then Christ the High Priest entrusts to the ones whom He invites to table, His ongoing mission of bringing the whole world along with them to the full communion of Trinitarian life, inaugurating the Holy Priesthood.
The Innocent Lamb will freely take the punishment and derision, caused by the sins of a world that has forgotten love, upon Himself. He will freely walk the way of suffering and die, in the words of the ancient church "trampling on death by death".
We are invited to make this mystery our own. No mere spectators in this Act of Love, we are participants. We are to pick up that basin and towel, to climb upon that Cross and to learn this way of selfless Love. We are to imitate the way of holiness demonstrated in the washing of feet and fulfilled on that Cross on Golgothas´ Hill.
On Friday we will pause in utter silence and enter into the moment when heaven touched earth and earth touched heaven. We will stand on that Hill where out of Divine Love Jesus poured out every drop of blood and water from His wounded side. Through the power of that saving act of love we are freed from the grip of sin and death to say "Yes" to the full implications of our Baptismal call to discipleship, free to live our lives for others.
This year as we enter into the Mysteries of the Great Triduum we should ask ourselves the probing questions. Do we love by pouring ourselves out even for those whom we do not feel particularly fond of? Have we grasped this year, at least a little more, the implications and invitation of what we commemorate? On this Holy Thursday let us choose to follow the God who washes feet and learn the way of poured out love. Then we will understand more fully the real meaning and promise of the empty tomb.
- - -
Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: Footwashing, Holy Thursday, holiness, service, Triduum, Deacon Keith Fournier
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