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Holy Thursday: The God Who Washes feet

3/23/2005 - 6:47 AM PST

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By Rev. Mr. Keith Fournier
© Third Millennium, LLC
Catholic Online

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"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."
The Gospel of St John, Chapter 13

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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, 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 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.

St. John would remind the early Christians, in the fourth chapter of the first letter he would write after recording this Gospel, of the implications of this event when he wrote:

“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 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.

Love is a verb!

Shortly after this event we read of the continuation of this great Act of poured out Love. First Jesus inaugurates the great meal that is itself the very heart of the holy exchange, giving Himself as food for those who will make the journey with Him back to the Father and inviting them to bring the whole world with them. Then, this Innocent One walks the way of suffering and mounts the altar of sacrifice, in order to fully pour Himself out - every last drop of blood and water flowing from His wounded side – on behalf of us all, beginning creation anew by overcoming sin, paying the debt of justice and defeating the devil and last enemy, death.

As we enter into this “Triduum”, the great three days, we are again invited to make the mystery our own. No mere spectators in this Act of Love we are to become participants. We who bear the name “Christian” are called to pick up that basin and towel, to climb upon that Cross and to learn –and live- this way of Love in service. We are called to witness the stone that is soon to be rolled away and demonstrate our belief in its eternal promise by living like the God who washes feet. When we do, we make the mystery real on an earth that still awaits the fullness of redemption.

Shortly after this event we read, in this same Gospel, the continuation of the love story. This active love of God in the flesh leads Him to that Hill where he would show the depth and summit of this Love. Next in the sequence of events however, Jesus inaugurates the great meal that is itself the very heart of the holy exchange. There, He gives Himself as food for all those who will make the journey with Him back to the Father. He becomes bread broken for others. Then, to the ones whom He invites to table He gives His mission of bringing the whole world along with them.

Then, the Innocent One freely takes the punishment and derision, caused by the sins of a world that has forgotten love, upon Himself and walks the way of suffering. He mounts the altar of sacrifice and fully pours Himself out - ...

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