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Holy Thursday

March 29, 2018

Fr. Joseph A. Jacobi

This past Tuesday morning I drove to Norman to Grace Living Center to visit my mom. When I walked into her room, one of the nursing home staff, Andrew, was on his knees wrapping my mom’s swollen left leg from her knee all the way down to and including her foot. I could tell the way Andrew was doing this that it was more than just a job to him but that he really cared for my mom. As he wrapped her with one type of gauze and then another, he would constantly look up at her and ask her, “Mary, how’s that feel?” Andrew did the wrapping with a strength that was gentle, a tenderness that was interwoven with the wrapped gauze.

The wrap he put on my mom’s leg and foot would hasten the healing process and bring the swelling down, but a deeper healing happened in that encounter between Andrew and my mother, a healing that always occurs when one person pours themselves out in self-giving love of another.

The Son of God is born of Mary to heal a broken world. He comes to touch humankind with divine tenderness, to pour out his life in love. The 2nd Person of the Holy Trinity becomes human, taking the form of a slave. Though he is King of Kings, he comes not to be served but to serve, to give his life as a ransom for all humanity ensnared in sin and sin’s wages–death itself.

Jesus Christ washes feet his whole life long, reaching out to touch the hurting in loving kindness, making broken hearts whole again, drawing others into the family of God. He is love incarnate. He wraps his flesh around the loving-kindness of God. So, loving kindness flows out of him to touch every person he encounters, even his enemies, and even those who betray him, for he washes Judas’ feet, too. Jesus commands all of his disciples to do the same, to do what he does, to wash feet. He has given us a model to follow—we don’t have to guess how to fulfill his command. We are to live our lives in him and through him and with him, reaching out to touch those hurting in our world, whose hearts have calluses as tough as the ones on our feet. When we do so, we remember him, and in the remembering, he becomes present and active through us.

The cross is the ultimate sign of Jesus emptying himself in life-giving loving service for the salvation of the world. So that when we gather at this holy table to eat this bread and drink this cup, we proclaim his death until he comes again. The power of his self-giving love flows into us when we share in this sacred supper, so that we might be what he has called his Church to be—his body in the world.

Do we realize what Jesus has done for us? I hardly ever saw my dad angry, though there was one thing that would cause him to be upset with my siblings and me. Sometimes during the 15 minute drive home from Sunday Mass, a fight would erupt among us 4 siblings or one would call another a name, and then dad, passion flaming from his eyes, would ask us if we had forgotten who we had just received and what Jesus had done for us. His point—receiving the Body and the Blood of the Lord was supposed to effect how we lived our lives or we had received this great gift in vain.

Do we realize what Jesus has done for us? Are we aware of how he has given himself to us and for us to free us from the slavery of selfishness, the prison of resentment, the chains of hatred?

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the washer of feet and servant of all, the Crucified Lord of love, gives the Church the great gift of the Eucharist to remember Him. We receive his body and blood, and are joined to Him, so we might do as he did—give our lives away in loving service of others.

Too many Christians make the Christian life too difficult and complicated when it is actually quite simple. Having joined our lives Christ Jesus, to the power of his dying and rising in baptism, we are nourished again and again by the Risen Christ in this holy meal.

Thus united with him we have the mind and heart of Christ Jesus, empowered by him to love others as he loves us. Self-giving service to others is one of the highest forms of Christian love. We develop a “foot-washing” attitude, which impels us to give our lives away to others with him and through him. We are able to love in such a way because he strengthens us by the gift of the Eucharist.

As we put on the mind of Christ, our hearts beat more closely with his as we reach out to “wash feet,” touching with tenderness those who are hurting. From this position of Christ-like service, we become the hands of Christ, caressing and healing the broken body of Christ. Christ is the one serving and the one being served—how incredible is that!

From the humble position of service where we are looking up at another person, it becomes impossible to look down upon them, and we see others with the eyes of Christ.

From the humble, obedient position of loving service, it is almost impossible to shout at the other, and instead our words flow from the mouth of Christ, words that build up instead of tear down.

From the humble, obedient stance of a “foot-washer”, we come to know that we are not separate from others but one with them in their pain, and so we love them with the heart of Christ.

One of the few TV shows my parents let me watch as a kid was “Mister Rogers Neighborhood.” The grandfatherly host of the show, Fred Rogers, doled out wisdom in a very gentle yet earnest way. Mister Rogers once said, “You need three things to be successful in life in the only way that truly counts. The first is kindness. The second is kindness. And the third is kindness.”

That may sound naïve, but is just the opposite.

It is our only realistic hope if we want to transform the meanness poisoning our air, so we might breathe as one people under God again. The loving-kindness of Christ flowing through us transforms the world.

It is our only realistic hope of conquering hate with love, of peace triumphing over war, of fueling a justice that proves more powerful than greed.

As we our nourished by the Bread of Life, he hungers in us for us to live as neighbors, one and all.

As we drink of Him who is the Cup of Eternal Salvation, he thirsts in us for unity, that all might live as brothers and sisters in Him.