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“He loved his own in the world and he loved them to the end.”
by Joanne Fantini, CSJ Agrégée
We are just one week away from the beginning of Holy Week, preparing ourselves more and more for the Paschal Mystery. I find my prayer turning to the foot-washing and a deepening of feelings of gratitude toward God.
At the Last Supper, we see Jesus in all his fullness — as he is — just before he leaves us. Jesus, we are told, knows his hours are numbered. Faced with the enormity of what is about to befall him – betrayal, denial, public humiliation, torture and an excruciating death – here is what Jesus does: he gathers his friends for a meal.
This is no ordinary meal but a solemn feast, an intimate moment, with the men and women closest to him. On the cusp of his darkest moment, Jesus’ desire for his disciples is for them to experience in all its depth his total trust in Abba and his deep love and friendship for them.
The moment is key. Jesus is very deliberately offering a sign. Notice how Jesus begins without words. Jesus simply lays aside his outer garment – takes a towel, a basin, water – the vestments and tools of a servant and quietly begins to wash the feet of his disciples.
Jesus, like Abba, is the initiator helping us to become aware of what has been done for us. Little by little, big by big, God continues to draw us into our belovedness.
Peter, we know, resists the arrangement. Isn’t that how it is with us sometimes? Perhaps, what is most difficult for us is not grasping the story, but imagining the love that is behind it. Peter, like us at times, resists at first, then opens his heart and allows himself to receive the grace of it “dripping from his toes” as one poet writes.
Imagine you are at the foot-washing: Can you invite Jesus to wash your feet?
Do you perceive a desire to receive God’s love ‘dripping from your toes?’
Jesus goes on loving his own “to the end” — no matter what. Judas Iscariot, who will betray him, Simon Peter, who will deny him and the disciple “whom Jesus loved” — all have their feet washed by Jesus. The love is unqualifiedly the same with each completely on the receiving end.
After washing the disciples’ feet Jesus asks a unique question “Do you know what I have done for you?” Do they? Do we? Can they in the moment grasp: Jesus opening up for them out of his tremendous love for them, a sharing in mutuality of spirit which is friendship. Our being loved before we knew it opens us to receive Jesus’ gift of friendship and a share in opening it up for others through loving service.
How would you answer Jesus’ question: “Do you know what I have done for you?”
“For I have set for you an example, that you also should do as I have done for you.” John 13:15
“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you.” John 13:34
Jesus tells them as he returns to the table “that you should do as I have done for you.” We are to do the love we learned from Jesus. As the theologian Tomas Halik points out: “turns out love is a gift and a commandment” To live a whole life out of the truth Jesus reveals.
- How then shall we love one another in our own communities, as the new commandment requires?
- Will we respond to the world’s deepest need in our time of multiple pandemic?
- How might we go about washing the feet of our neighbors with political leanings unlike ours, what form would that take?
Once again on Holy Thursday, the banquet will be set before us. We will remember once more that night of the new commandment and also look ahead to the day of its fulfillment. We remember and live into the deeply human gesture of Jesus laying down his life for us, lovingly serving us so we could come to share in his life forever by making the gesture “to do as he has done” continuous and contagious in our daily lives.
May your Holy Week be filled with blessing and hope.
As I Have Done For You – Dan Schutte https://youtu.be/m9oBFRjmuIA
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