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Spirituality of the Readings
Holy Thursday and Good Friday
April 9 and 10, 2020
John Foley, SJ
Open Your Ears

The power of story.

My dad used to tell special stories to us kids about Bruno the Bear. Bruno was just a cub (like us). We gloried in the secret stashes of honey, in angry bees, swimming in the dirty river, a little bear cleaning behind its ears at Momma’s command—and so on.

With Bruno our imaginations burrowed safely into his comfy cave, with his bearish dad always just a few lumbering steps away, and of course our own dad’s strong voice retelling all of this from the center of his dadly person. We mutated into stillness and wonder.

That was a long time ago, I know, but isn’t it amazing that people’s ears perk up immediately when a story begins, whether they are children or not.

I wonder if you and I might feel that way on Thursday afternoon, Friday evening and Saturday night at Holy Week Triduum. Will we come to attention when the story of the last supper is read? What about the Passion reading of Good Friday? Or are they just a test of our endurance?

If we get caught up in God’s great story there will be no problem.

On Good Friday he washes us again, but this time in the humble flow of his own blood.

It was the night Jesus died. He took up some normal, coarse bread. He blessed it, broke off pieces and gave them to his disciples. The words he said have been remembered and retold throughout history. Eat this, it is my flesh. I am going to give up everything I am and have so that you can live. And this wine, it is my blood. I will shed it because I love you. Drink deep.

He picked up a pail of water—smelly because it came up from a well. He took a rough cleaning cloth and did what nobody ever would have expected or even wanted in a million years. He washed their feet.

Peter takes our part: “Lord you will never wash my feet! Stop it!” Peter understands that Jesus is the Christ of God (Messiah), but Messiahship does not match the menial foot-washing that a servant would do.

  “You are equal to God, act like it!” In the desert the devil had tempted Jesus in this fashion, one not too far removed from the present scene. Peter had tried previously to stop Jesus’ humility too, remember, and Jesus answered with, “Get behind me, Satan!”

Jesus warns him again this time at the supper, and then goes ahead and washes his feet.

Why? And why do we memorialize it on Holy Thursday? Because the entire relation of human beings to God is one of receiving love and giving it back, no matter what the cost. If Peter will not allow Jesus to love him in this very earthy way, he will be refusing the gift of God’s labor on his behalf. “You can’t love us in that way,” he would be saying.

Jesus replies, “I do not want to be Godly in the way you imagine. I want to show you that only humility can love and be loved. I want to show you that death is the most humble act of all.”

On Good Friday he washes us again, but this time in the humble flow of his own blood.

Will we listen to his story?

Insofar as we do, we will receive and will be stilled. We will be emptied as he was, to receive.


John Foley, SJ

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Fr. John Foley, SJ

Fr. John Foley, SJ, is a composer and scholar at Saint Louis University.
Art by Martin Erspamer, OSB
from Religious Clip Art for the Liturgical Year (A, B, and C). This art may be reproduced only by parishes who purchase the collection in book or CD-ROM form. For more information go http://www.ltp.org