Mass of the Lord’s Supper
18 April 2019
I have to say that our parish mission this year was quite powerful. As many of you know I brought in my friend Greg – a Catholic motivational speaker. To begin his 3-day reflections, Greg quoted Dr. Suess’ The Lorax: “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” There are two words on which that quote hinges … ‘unless’ and care. The word ‘care’ is defined as ‘serious attention to something or someone; or the process of providing for the needs of another.’
The Mass this evening commemorates three very specific aspects of Christ’s mission. On this night He instituted the Eucharist, the Priesthood, and the Commandment to love – service of one another. He institutes what would become the pattern of our worship and tells the Apostles – “do this in memory of me.” This was no mere suggestion, it was a command. Thus, Jesus forms the identity of the Church and the ministerial priesthood – whose role it is to carry on the mission of the Redeemer.
Yet, I want to draw your attention to the significance of the foot washing – which takes center stage in the gospel this evening. Foot washing was a common practice of the time. It was a way of welcoming guests. A person’s feet would be dusty and dirty from their journey and so the host would offer water so that they could wash up. Normally this would be performed by the guests themselves or by a servant. That which is interesting here is the word choice of St. John. The verb used to describe Jesus’ removal of His outer garments is the same word used to describe “laying down His life” in other verses. Thus St. John wants us to connect the foot washing to Jesus actual gift of Himself – the full surrender of His life. And lest be honest, the foot washing would have been pretty gross … He would have had to get down on the ground… the disciples were not sitting on chairs… this was no easy task… He literally lowered Himself to the lowest possible place. He was revealing to them that service to others goes hand in hand with sacrifice … He was showing to them the Heart of the Father – which would later be dreadfully, yet gloriously displayed on the cross… He was showing them that He cares an awful lot…. To what end? To draw the disciples into relationship, into communion with Him. He is telling them that God is not out of reach.
What is He teaching us? I think it is that service, sacrifice and communion are intimately connected… It marks a distinctive unity between Jesus and the believer when we lower ourselves to wash the feet of another … This was not just a gesture of hospitality, He wasn’t just being nice … this is the gift of self, it is sacrifice, the offering of one’s heart to another … it sends the message that God is not out of reach.
This is not something that easily comprehended nor lived. But lets go back to the quote from the Lorax: “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” Unless – if not you than who? Who will pay serious attention to those who are hurting, who are sick, the lonely, the poor… This is not just about being nice … it is about taking off the outer garment of our pride and ego, it is stripping ourselves of our own needs … This service and sacrifice draws us into a deeper and more intimate relationship with Jesus… a relationship that first flows from the altar of the cross where He feeds us with His own Body and Blood … and from the grace of the sacrament He teaches us to offer ourselves, our hearts in such a way that makes God known to others … Jesus, in this gesture of humility and love teaches us to care a whole awful lot.