The Washing of the Disciples’ Feet
Sociologist Robert Wuthnow of Princeton University (USA) has explored how it is that people make everyday ethical decisions. He found out that many people perform deeds of compassion, service and mercy because at some point in their past someone acted with compassion toward them. He wrote, “The caring we receive may touch us so deeply that we feel especially gratified when we are able to pass it on to someone else.”
Today is Holy Thursday and we come together in this Evening Mass of the Lord’s Last Supper to officially open the Easter Triduum in preparation for the commemoration of the glorious Resurrection of our Lord Jesus on Easter Sunday. We come together to recall in our hearts and minds the events that occur on Thursday during Holy Week which is the last week in the life of our Lord. One-third of all the events that we have about Jesus’ life occur during this week. During this Last Supper Jesus and His disciples gather together to celebrate the Seder or Passover meal. Seder Meal commemorates the day when the Jews were in bondage in Egypt. By which Moses warned Pharaoh to let his people go but Pharaoh hardened his heart. So God sent a death over the land of Egypt but miraculously this death passed over the homes of the Jews. Thus, the season of Passover was given birth. The meal itself reminds the Jews of the sufferings of their forefathers and the power of God’s deliverance.
Jesus towards the end of the meal adds two more symbols. He takes a loaf of bread breaks it and gives it to His disciples saying: “Take and eat it, this is my body which is broken for you, do this in remembrance of me.” Then He takes a cup with wine He drinks from it and gives it to His disciples saying: “Drink all of this, for this is my blood which is shed for you and for many for the forgiveness of sin.” Through these words the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist is instituted (other accounts are in Matt 26:26, Mk 14:22 and Lk 22:19 also). This is the only sacrifice fully acceptable to the Heavenly Father for the redemption of humankind by which Jesus, who became one of us, is both priest and victim as He offers Himself once and for all for the salvation of the world.
During Last Supper He also instituted the Sacrament of Priesthood, the authority and power to offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass or the Holy Eucharist. He said: “Do this in memory of me,” (Luke 22:19, 1Cor 11:24). Jesus instituted Priesthood because He wants the Memorial of His passion and death to be relived until the end of time in an unbloody manner. And also, without the priest as the presider the offering of the Holy Eucharist is not possible. And so therefore, the two Sacraments are essentially tied together.
But He rises from table, removes His outer garment, put a towel around Himself, (v. 4) and washes His disciples’ feet. He consciously performs the task of a slave. But not even slaves during that time were asked to wash another person’s feet according to most biblical scholars. The slave would bring a basin with water and a towel but it would be the guest who would wash his own feet. And Jesus, the Son of God and their Lord, does the “lower” than a slave job, He washes His disciples’ feet. Jesus purposely does the feet washing so that the act will make a lasting impression on them. Jesus concludes: “I have given you a model to follow so that as I have done for you, you should also do.” In other words, humble service should characterize all who identify themselves as Christians. The Second Plenary Council of the Philippines (PCP-II) says: “Humble service is one of the last important lessons that our Lord Jesus taught the apostles. And He made it clear during the Last Supper.” This is our response as Catholics after more than 2,000 years of the Birth of Christ on how we act and relate to our world today and the kind of Christian community Jesus wants us to be.
Let us make this memorial of the Lord’s Last Supper a living memory of the Lord in our lives who taught us about humble service.
See Homily Option