Evening Mass of the Lord's Supper
EX 12:1-8, 11-14/1 COR 11:23-26/JN 13:1-15
Within the context of Passover, Jesus celebrates his last meal with his disciples. He knows that the time of fulfillment is upon him and he must have asked himself, what final message he could leave his disciples. Jesus decides to forsake words and draws upon a more ancient ritual that will be the key to unlock the disciples' understanding of the events of the next three days. The washing of feet was a sign of hospitality and a practical necessity in the ancient world. A servant would meet the guest at the door and wash their feet. In becoming that servant, Jesus gives us not only an example of humility, but also the command, the mandate, of service to one another.
If we look to the origins of this ritual, we find an even more profound meaning. The Jewish patriarchs and their families were nomads who lived in the desert. There the host himself would wash the feet of the guests who had been invited to his tent. This was a gesture of hospitality, to be sure; but it meant much more than a simple welcome. This ritual was taken as a pledge that the guest would be safe here from the dangers of the desert; safe from wild animals or robbers or any other threats. And it was understood that, if necessary, the host would shed his very blood to defend the life of his guest.
Tonight Jesus, in washing his disciples' feet, pledges his own blood so that his disciples and all of us might live. And Jesus looks at them and says: now do you understand what I have been teaching you? I have given you an example, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.
What Jesus does on this night reminds us that sharing in the one bread and one cup of the Eucharist and the washing of the feet are inseparable. If we are to share in the sacramental bread and cup then we, too, must share our lives. We are called upon to pledge that our lives will be given for others, not on a cross, but in living for others.
During this time of “confinement” we will miss deeply the rituals that mark these holiest of days. But there is no suspension of our obligation to serve one another. Perhaps that might be checking on an elderly neighbor or someone who lives alone. Perhaps it is serving as a virtual tutor through our Tutor-Mentor program. And, of course, it is serving those we live with as a source of encouragement and hope. “I have given you an example, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.”
Fr. Larry Snyder
Vice President for Mission