Below is the Holy Thursday homily from my fellow wanderer Deacon Robert Kinghorn. Deacon Robert captures the call to be a servant to all, regardless of the convenience of the situation, as one of the main teachings of Jesus on this night of his final supper with his closest friends.
Holy Thursday Homily: Deacon Robert Kinghorn
I guess by now you have heard we have a new pope. Pope Francis the First. The media around the world sure picked up quickly on his message didn’t they? And he gave the message more by his actions than by his words. One of the things they picked up on was that back home he washed the feet of AIDS patients and the poor. Much as the media made a great deal of it, and it made headlines around the world, the reaction of Pope Francis seemed to be to shrug his shoulders and say, “So what? Isn’t this what we are supposed to do?”
But think about it. If you had never heard of God before and you listed all the things that God must be like and all the things that God would do. Where on your list would you put, “Kneels down and washes the feet of the poor?” Come on be honest. I bet it would not even make the list. If you gave me a lifetime, I would never come up with this as what God is like. And yet this is what Jesus says God is like. And he said it more by his actions than his words.
In the readings tonight, and in this liturgy, we see more than ever how Jesus taught his disciples; how he is teaching you and me. It is not as though he had a lesson plan and said, “Monday I am going to teach you about the Eucharist. Tuesday I am going to teach you about serving. Then I am going to teach you about praying.” No! He lived his life, he walked among the people every day, and at various times he stopped and said, “Do you see what I have just done? Do you really understand what I just did? Then do this too. Do this in memory of me. Do as I have done. Be my hands, my feet, my heart.”
This is what happened on the first Holy Thursday. I am sure you have heard before that Matthew, Mark, and Luke all talked about the Last Supper and how Jesus instituted the Eucharist; just as Paul talked about it in the second reading tonight in the Letter to the Corinthians. He took the bread; he took the cup of wine and said, “This is my Body; this is my Blood. Do this in remembrance of me.”
But St. John in his gospel which we heard this evening, in the middle of this same meal talked of Jesus washing the feet of the disciples. He knelt down and did what the servant in any household would do. He washed the feet of the guests. But do you know what was strange? Why did he do it during the meal? John in the gospel said, “During supper he got up from the table.” The servant always washed the feet of the guests when they arrived at the house to get the dirt of their journey off their feet. So why did Jesus get up from the table during the meal and wash their feet? You could of course say that maybe he suddenly remembered, “Darn it, I forgot to do that washing the feet thing. I meant to teach them that this evening.” But there seems to be a much deeper meaning.
St. Luke’s gospel says, “During the meal, a dispute arose among them about who is the greatest.” The fight broke out right in the midst of the meal, at that moment of fellowship and unity, when he had given his body and his blood to them and said, “Do this in remembrance of me.” He gave his whole body to them and instituted the priesthood and immediately they started to argue about who was the greatest. So he stepped forward and by his actions showed that the Eucharist and the washing of the feet are one act, and that we too have to commit ourselves to a life of service with the poor for this Eucharist to mean anything at all. Seriously, unless we commit ourselves to service of others as we receive the Eucharist then it is an empty and shallow gesture when we receive the body and blood of Christ. And as he washed the feet of his disciples he again said, “Did you understand what I have just done? Then do what I have done.” Yes, he washed the feet of the disciples, who he knew were going to run and hide. He washed the feet of Peter, who he knew would deny him; and he washed the feet of Judas, who he knew was about to betray him. We are called to serve, not just our friends, but our enemies.
As Jesus showed us this evening, when we take the position of a servant we are putting ourselves out there to be used, and sometimes abused and taken advantage of. A servant is called to serve not only when it is convenient but often when it is terribly inconvenient.
This evening we see the total unity of the life of Jesus. We see the unity of the Eucharist and the washing of the feet. We see why Pope Francis would almost shrug when people talked about washing the feet of the poor and seemed to say “So what? Isn’t this what we are supposed to do?” The celebration this evening, the Eucharist and the washing of the feet of 12 parishioners, is one celebration. It is one act of Jesus who gives himself totally in the Eucharist and gives himself totally in serving the poor. And to each of these he says to you and to me, “Do this in remembrance of me.”
Below is a clip of the story of the washing of the disciples feet in the upper room.