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Evening Mass of the Lord's Supper
(Holy Thursday)
April 9, 2020

Focusing the Gospel

Key words and phrases: his hour had come, was returning to God, began to wash the disciples’ feet, inheritance with me, I have given you a model
To the point: This night is about an eternity of self-giving. When Jesus asked his disciples, “Do you realize what I have done for you?” he was talking about much more than washing feet. He was talking about how God’s glory is manifested: caring for others, paying attention to others, giving oneself to others. What glory is there in self-giving? The glory lies in making visible God’s love.
A prayer starter:  Master chefs know that presentation of food is almost as important as its taste. Plating food is an art: it needs to be beautiful, appealing, even glorious. It should rouse our senses even before we pick up a fork to take our first bite. The setting for the gospel this evening is “the feast of Passover.” Jesus and his disciples are sharing a meal. No doubt Jesus, the “teacher” and “master,” has a central place when this company of friends reclines at table. Since it is a feast, there is probably beauty: for eyes, for taste, for hearing. Then Jesus lays out a feast of action: he puts on a serving apron, takes a basin, and does a glorious act. He washes feet.

The opening lines for the gospel set the context: “Jesus knew that his hour had come” and “He loved his own … and he loved them to the end.” In Jerusalem for the Passover, Jesus would soon submit to his own passing from this world to the next. Even in face of impending death, however, Jesus is ever the One to show forth God’s glory, God’s Presence. In spite of betrayal and denial, Jesus would nonetheless love his disciples “to the end.” This night sets the interpretive stance for the next three days: no matter what was in store for him, Jesus is always the One who teaches and loves, always the One who models the behavior of those who wish to follow him faithfully. His actions show forth God’s glory, God’s Presence. This Presence is divine love. The footwashing is God’s love made visible. It is God’s glory made visible.

The import of the self-giving footwashing is that we, Jesus’ followers, “should also do.” This is a symbolic act—in our society today we are hardly expected to take a basin and begin washing the feet of our dinner guests. What is expected of faithful followers of Jesus is to recognize in others the glory of God, to respect the dignity of all others, to be agents of fidelity and justice, to be inclusive in our relationships, to lift the burdens of others, to love without reserve and without expectations of reward or return. These actions modeled first by Jesus are carried out in the ordinary circumstances of our daily living. Being so risky as to smile and pleasantly greet a perfect stranger on the street who looks tired or agitated, being patient with the children who demand our attention, planning a special meal simply to surprise the family on an ordinary day are all ways we manifest God’s glory. The possibilities are unlimited for us to do as Jesus did; all we need to do is follow the model he gave us. In being his Presence for others, we manifest God’s glory. We share in God’s holiness.

And so this night we are faced with two questions: What glory is there in serving? How does this manifest God’s Presence, God’s holiness? Rather than answer these questions with words, we must answer them with deeds that call others to become more deeply aware of God’s own love, God’s very Being, God’s glorious Presence. Like Jesus, we must love “to the end.” And the end is the beginning of risen Life.

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Living Liturgy: Spirituality, Celebration, and Catechesis
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Brian Schmisek, Diana Macalintal, and Katy Beedle Rice
Living Liturgy 2011

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