Intentions: That all people will turn away from sin, living instead with compassion and justice, and embracing God’s gifts of faith, hope, and love.
Today’s Gospel | John 13:1-15
Before the feast of Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to pass from this world to the Father. He loved his own in the world and he loved them to the end. The devil had already induced Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot, to hand him over. 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. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Master, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus answered and said to him, “What I am doing, you do not understand now, but you will understand later.” Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “Unless I wash you, you will have no inheritance with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Master, then not only my feet, but my hands and head as well.” Jesus said to him, “Whoever has bathed has no need except to have his feet washed, for he is clean all over; so you are clean, but not all.” For he knew who would betray him; for this reason, he said, “Not all of you are clean.”
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 for Holy Thursday recounts the beginning of Jesus’ last evening with his Apostles before his arrest the next morning. In the narrative, Jesus wraps a towel around himself, kneels on the floor, and washes his followers’ feet. This is such an important moment that it would become one of the rituals of the Church’s Holy Thursday liturgy. Its significance lies not only in its message to the Apostles that long ago Passover, but also in its message to us today.
Washing the feet of guests before a meal was a long-standing custom in Judaic society, but one normally performed by the servants of a household. What Jesus did most likely came as a shock to the Apostles. Peter even went so far as to protest. Only when Jesus explained himself did they begin to understand what was happening. He was showing them the heart of God’s authority, which was not command, but compassion. God uses his power to be with his creation rather than place himself above it. Just as Jesus’ authority had and would take the form of sacrificial love, so too must those who would continue his mission in his name.
Author James Hunter writes, “There is great joy in leading with authority, which is serving others by meeting their needs.” As this Triduum begins, we reflect on Jesus’ final hours and his powerful lesson on servant leadership. To lead rightly is to serve, openly and personally, connecting with people in their everyday efforts, struggles, and pain. If we are to take on the ministry of proclaiming the Kingdom of God, then it must be by placing ourselves before God’s people in humble care and service.
Eternal Father, you sent your Son so that we would become servants of your Kingdom and signs of your love. On this Holy Thursday, we pray that we will always seek not only to serve but also to make ourselves worthy to serve. Cleanse us body and soul so that we will go to those in need without hesitation or judgment. Help us to follow Jesus’ call to lives of compassion. We ask this of you who lives and reigns with your Son and the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever. Amen.