Homily Holy Thursday 2017
Each of our readings today gives a different view on the purpose of Holy Thursday. Our first reading describes the Seder meal of the Israelites who were to soon flee Egypt. This was to be their last supper before their passing over to the Promised Land. But their true Passover was the protection that God assured them, as the angel of death would pass by them. The people found protection, guidance and yes even salvation in the Lord. Their first-born sons were spared death. They would also be given a new life as they were freed from the bondage of Egypt to begin a life with God and not pharaoh as their ruler. The Passover meal was not only remembered as a sacrifice but also remembered as food for the journey – the journey of life.
Our second reading reminds us of Jesus’ promise to be with us in and through the Eucharist. Jesus demonstrations to us that he will always be physically present with us, as he takes the bread and wine in his hands changes them into his body and blood. He reminds his disciples, and us, to do the same giving us not only a permanent reminder, but also the connection with Jesus to do the same the place of his place after he physically leaves this world. And like the Israelites, the Last Supper would remind us not only of the sacrifice but also as our food for the journey of life.
John’s gospel does not include the commemoration passage of the bread and wine changed into to the body and blood of Christ Jesus. Rather, it presents us with a very powerful and special aspect of Jesus who is the Messiah and the Emmanuel. Jesus washes the feet of his disciples. Washing of feet was one of the jobs only the lower level servants would do. It was a lowly and submissive duty. It was demeaning as the servant stooped to clean the dirty and beat up feet of the guests to the house. But for those who were on the receiving end it was uplifting and comforting. After all the cool water must have felt great as the dirt and grime of the roads were away from their sore, tired feet.
To me, this gospel sums up the mission and ministry of Jesus in concise way. He takes the meaning of Holy Thursday beyond a last meal to what Jesus’ life and ultimately what our life is all about – service through kenosis. In these last days of Holy Week – Holy Thursday, Good Friday and of course Easter Sunday, Jesus becomes the living definition of a Greek word – Kenosis. In kenosis one empties oneself by giving and sharing of who he or she is, what he or she can do for the benefit of others.
God wants everyone to share in his love and Jesus is that connection to share in his love on a human level. Jesus is the Messiah – the anointed one, the savior. Jesus is the Emmanuel – God with us. God wants everyone to experience the outpouring of His goodness and to truly come to know and be with Him. God sent us his Son to be with us in the human person Jesus to teach us how to love, to give and to empty ourselves so that others may thrive. Through his kenosis Jesus brings us not only to himself and the Father, but also give us the opportunity and the tools necessary to share in his ministry and bring others closer to God.
Yes, we cannot forget the words that Jesus spoke as we heard in the second reading. But the words together with the transubstantiation serve as food for us to be Christ Jesus – to be that person who came to serve and not be serve, to be that person who gives and gives and then gives some more. To the very end Jesus would give share of himself. Jesus showed that God does not hesitate to stoop to any level to lift us up, to comfort us, to care for us, to bring us into the love of God.
The people at the Last Supper are Jesus’ closed friends. They would soon be the first leaders of his church. He washed their feet to teach them what they are called to do – and not simply to clean each other’s feet but rather to serve by emptying themselves for the good of others. Jesus shows us that all servant hood start with him. We are to be Christ to others because he is Christ to us. We are to be Christ to others because we are filled with his love. Jesus always was a person of self-giving. By his action at the last upper, Jesus teaches us that God has stoop down so low as to allow humanity to share in his divinity.
All are called to serve and today we see the example of not just Jesus but his disciples receiving their call to serve. Though his kenosis Jesus invites others to share in his mission and ministry.
While far from being Jesus, I let him work through me as I washed the feet of those here, who represent all of us today. But in a very special I washed the feet of our pastor and who leads us at our parish. I am here to remind us that Fr. John knows that he is a servant of Jesus. As he serves us he must allow Jesus serve him first, as Jesus did to disciple on that Thursday evening. Jesus empties himself into Fr. John in a special way through Holy Orders. As I washed the feet of Fr. John, I remind him of his calling to go out and wash your feet every day. Fr. John empties himself to meet the need you the children of God. But note when Jesus said do this in memory of me at the last supper, he was inviting all of us to be his servant to others. Each of us needs our feet washed to make that connection of kenosis. Only when we are connected to God by letting him empty himself into us we will be filled with God’s love. When our feet are washed, we will feel the kenosis of Christ, which cannot be contained but must flow out through us. We are now all servants of God to each other.