18 April 2019
The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt:
‘This month is to be the first of all the others for you, the first month of your year. Speak to the whole community of Israel and say, “On the tenth day of this month each man must take an animal from the flock, one for each family: one animal for each household. If the household is too small to eat the animal, a man must join with his neighbour, the nearest to his house, as the number of persons requires. You must take into account what each can eat in deciding the number for the animal. It must be an animal without blemish, a male one year old; you may take it from either sheep or goats. You must keep it till the fourteenth day of the month when the whole assembly of the community of Israel shall slaughter it between the two evenings. Some of the blood must then be taken and put on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses where it is eaten. That night, the flesh is to be eaten, roasted over the fire; it must be eaten with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. You shall eat it like this: with a girdle round your waist, sandals on your feet, a staff in your hand. You shall eat it hastily: it is a passover in honour of the Lord. That night, I will go through the land of Egypt and strike down all the first-born in the land of Egypt, man and beast alike, and I shall deal out punishment to all the gods of Egypt, I am the Lord! The blood shall serve to mark the houses that you live in. When I see the blood I will pass over you and you shall escape the destroying plague when I strike the land of Egypt. This day is to be a day of remembrance for you, and you must celebrate it as a feast in the Lord’s honour. For all generations you are to declare it a day of festival, for ever.”’
1 Corinthians 11:23-26
This is what I received from the Lord, and in turn passed on to you: that on the same night that he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took some bread, and thanked God for it and broke it, and he said, ‘This is my body, which is for you; do this as a memorial of me.’ In the same way he took the cup after supper, and said, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Whenever you drink it, do this as a memorial of me.’ Until the Lord comes, therefore, every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are proclaiming his death.
It was before the festival of the Passover, and Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to pass from this world to the Father. He had always loved those who were his in the world, but now he showed how perfect his love was.
They were at supper, and the devil had already put it into the mind of Judas Iscariot son of Simon, to betray him. Jesus knew that the Father had put everything into his hands, and that he had come from God and was returning to God, and he got up from table, removed his outer garment and, taking a towel, wrapped it round his waist; he then poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel he was wearing. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, ‘Lord, are you going to wash my feet?’ Jesus answered, ‘At the moment you do not know what I am doing, but later you will understand.’ ‘Never!’ said Peter ‘You shall never wash my feet.’ Jesus replied, ‘If I do not wash you, you can have nothing in common with me.’ ‘Then, Lord,’ said Simon Peter ‘not only my feet, but my hands and my head as well!’ Jesus said, ‘No one who has taken a bath needs washing, he is clean all over. You too are clean, though not all of you are.’ He knew who was going to betray him, that was why he said, ‘though not all of you are.’
When he had washed their feet and put on his clothes again he went back to the table. ‘Do you understand’ he said ‘what I have done to you? You call me Master and Lord, and rightly; so I am. If I, then, the Lord and Master, have washed your feet, you should wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example so that you may copy what I have done to you.’
Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet
Over the Christmas season last year, I hosted my husband’s family at our house for a week. Because I ran myself to the ground the year before trying to take care of every small detail, my husband suggested that this time, I learn to be more ‘collaborative’, to allow others to ‘share in the joy of making Christmas a success’ (his words, not mine!). I argued that it was a pointless exercise, that no one would be able to do things as efficiently as I would, that they would mess it up and I would have to spend even more time fixing it. He argued that while it might be the case, everyone would feel like they had contributed, even if the end result wasn’t perfect. He argued that it was less important for things to be perfect, it was a nobler ideal that people felt they had participated, that they had played a part in making Christmas a success.
So we tried it his way. I let his family ‘collaborate’ even as I ‘helicopter-hovered’ as discreetly as I could. And I have to say… my husband was right!! The feeling of love, goodwill, joy and family warmth that emanated over the week was worth the less than perfect end result. Everyone had a great time, despite all my hovering!
How is this relevant to the gospel today? As much as we refuse to admit it, most of us are control freaks. We think that we’re the bee’s knees, that no one can do a better job of something than us. We shun help, disdain it, decline it condescendingly or worse, feel offended by it – “Why, do YOU think that I can’t figure it out for myself? Are YOU trying to tell ME how to do things?” A lot of this is rooted in self-pride – pride in our abilities, pride in our efficiency, pride in our perceived martyrdom. It’s a form of affirmation, this delusion that no one can do it better than we can. But in our hastiness to seize the spotlight for ourselves, we rob others of the chance to serve. Like Peter, we proclaim, “You will never wash my feet”. You will never serve me! I won’t allow it! But really, who are we to decide who gets to serve? Who are we to decide what is good enough? Don’t we also deny ourselves the chance to be loved, to be taken care of, when we are disdainful of a helping hand? Might joy and love not be multiplied if we all collaborated?
As we attend this evening’s mass and look upon the symbolism of the washing of feet, let us call to mind all the times we turned down a helping hand because we didn’t think someone was good enough, and ask the Lord’s forgiveness for our pride, our selfish vanity and foolishness. It is not the end result that matters, what’s more important is how we all got there together. Perfection is not nearly as noble an ideal as participation.
(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)
Prayer: We pray for the patience, the humility and the awareness to involve others in our lives and in the work of God.
Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all the times we have been helped, for all the times we have stood on the shoulders of others, and for all the opportunities that God has given us to be that shoulder for someone to stand on.