2nd APRIL 2015
1 Corinthians 11:23-26
John’s Gospel, 13: 1-15
Tony van Vuuren
The end of our Lenten journey is brought into sharp focus this evening, as we begin the celebration of the Triduum. During Holy Week, we have lived the summit of this journey, and now Jesus enters Jerusalem to perform the last step, summarizing his whole existence: he gives himself totally; even his own life.
Starting with the celebration of the Last Supper, the events of the next three days are inextricably bound together as the three most sacred and important days of the year; the nucleus of our Christian faith….the Passion, the Death and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The liturgy for Holy Thursday includes Paul’s account of the “institution of the Eucharist” and complementing it we have John’s Gospel account of the “washing of feet.”
The excerpt from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians is the earliest written account of the Last Supper and Jesus’ words of blessing over the bread and the cup of wine. Jesus tells his disciples “Do this in memory of me.”
He is doing more than commanding them to continue celebrating the Eucharist. He is not only breaking bread and pouring wine; but in the broken bread and the cup he is breaking and pouring himself for them; asking them to remember his total surrender to the Spirit of Life and Love; and his enduring love for each one of them …and doing the same for us at every mass.
When we take the bread and eat it and drink from the cup we are mindful of Christ being truly within us; of the Spirit at work in our lives; in the ordinary; in the everyday, and in the desire to love and serve as generously as Jesus did.
Jesus says to us “Do this in remembrance of me.” And so we do.
In the Gospel account John tells us that the hour of Jesus’ Passover has arrived; and that Jesus knew that God had put everything in his power. In the same sentence though John describes how Jesus takes up the humble task of servant, washing his disciples’ feet.
Rough, worn, dirty feet that for three years had walked many dusty miles with him. He washes them with humility and love and sadness, knowing what awaits him in the hours ahead; even washing the feet of the one who was to betray him.
Perhaps as Jesus held those feet he thought of where these friends had been with him, and where their feet would take them in the years to come as they would carry out their mission that he was about to give them.
The washing of feet is a profound symbol. It says humility; it says service; but it also says equality: we are on this journey together, the powerful and the poor… and everyone in-between. In a sense, Jesus says to us, by his actions, that we are all children in God’s sight.
As we recall the great love that Jesus had for his disciples (including Judas) , let us remember that we are to follow Jesus, our Model, in thought, word, and action. We are to love the powerful and the poor … and everyone in- between unconditionally.
By this simple act Jesus touches us at the deepest level of our souls and we know that we will never be the same again.
His words give us the direction that our lives need to take;
“If I then, your Lord and Teacher have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.”
Tonight, in imitation of our Lord, Fr Harrie will wash the feet of 12 parishioners, representing all walks of life, representing all of us here present; committing us all to service and discipleship.
We must see and feel in the washing of feet a chance to reflect on our baptismal commitments and to prepare for the Vigil service on Saturday, when we will renew our baptismal promises.
The towel and water jug, like the cross, are just another reminder to all Christians of what we celebrate this evening and at each Eucharist: Christ came to serve and give his life for us. After we have received the Body and Blood of the Lord tonight and have had our feet washed, we are sent on our mission, to wash the feet of others. We must follow his example, both at the altar of the Eucharist and at the altar of life.