The Scripture tells us that, after the Resurrection, they knew Him: “In the breaking of the bread.” Today we celebrate the feast in which the whole Paschal Mystery is established, in the best sense of the word, instituted. St. John reveals to us the heart of the mystery, for in giving us the words of the Last Supper Discourse, and then telling of the washing of the feet, he opens the very heart of Jesus, both in words and in actions.
Jesus puts on a garment, onto which will come all the dirt of His followers – He becomes the servant who washes not just their clothes, but their bodies and indeed souls as well. And taking all the dirt onto Himself, He will carry all their – all our – sins to Calvary with Him.
He insists that He do this because His love for us wants a perfect union with us – but that must happen from Him, from His heart, in union with the Father who sent Him on this mission, to bring all home to Him. It is the feast of the priesthood par excellence, because the priest above all is called repeat these actions, both cultically and personally, to model and live them for the community, who in their turn bring this healing to the world.
Let us then let Him wash us, for we very much want to have part in Him who alone is our life. And then, let us wash the feet of others.
Grace: To have sorrow, compassion, and shame because the Lord is going to His suffering for my sins.
Reflection: For all the portrayals of the Passions as a violent blood-fest, it was not primarily a test of Jesus’ endurance. It was a sacrifice which only Jesus could make. As He sat in prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, this was something He must have been thinking of. The angels could minister to Him, the Father could comfort Him, but only He could carry out this task. Peter, James, and John were fast asleep as He prayed and waited for Judas. Jesus was totally alone.
Then Judas arrives with a group of Roman soldiers. Jesus now goes through an experience many of us know: betrayal by someone we love. After the initial sadness, sometimes we can lessen the pain by saying something like “He was a jerk anyway.” But Jesus never stopped loving Judas, and the pain He felt from the betrayal is only heightened by His knowledge of what this betrayal will do to Judas, and how this will destroy him.