Shared Homily Starter
The Community is invited to share after the foot-washing
Exodus 12.1-8, 11-14
John's Gospel shows us that in living in the daylight of grace, we are to help accomplish the intent of the Gospel, the Good News. The Evangelist tells us Jesus loved them to the end! That also means, He loves us to the end! That is, Jesus loved them and us to the very last moment and that Jesus loves us totally, completely, with the full extent of his love. John wants us to understand that Jesus' love is a love that at its core is incomprehensible in its fullness. God's love for us is the reason that Jesus came. Jesus' mission was to teach us to have confidence in Him as the revelation of God's love. He would be put to death because what he taught could free people from the oppressive structures and life-ways that kept them captive.
At the beginning of Lent on Ash Wednesday, we hear the words, “Mortal, you are dust and to dust you shall return.” The Evangelist tells us, that Jesus had come from God and to God he will return. The Good News that Jesus came to model for us is that, dust though we may be, we too will return to God. However, Jesus wanted to give the disciples one more comprehensive lesson.
Peter did not understand what Jesus was doing by washing the apostles feet. He did not understand that unless we let Jesus wash away what separates us and what keeps us from becoming whole, we blind ourselves from seeing the unifying love that God gives us. The washing of the disciples feet is not only an act of service but one of love for them and for us. As we read and hear it today, the foot-washing serves as a reminder of the ethical grace of our baptism.
Ethical grace is the grace of the essential goodness of earth and all its inhabitants combined with our responsibility for sustaining it. Jesus knows the disciples are not really getting it. If we were to put what Jesus was saying in today's terms, it would go something like this. Yes, I'm your teacher but your seminary days are almost over. I have washed your feet as a symbol of ethical grace in action; as an example that I want you to follow. I washed your feet to show you that you are to follow my example by your humility, love and generosity in your communities, in caring for all who have need, in healing the sick, in your appreciation for all life, by confronting the powers of injustice and exploitation.1 In essence that is what Jesus was saying to them and to us.
When we receive the Eucharist, which means, Thanksgiving, we give thanks that Jesus loved us so much that he gave his life so that we might learn love and justice as the life-sustaining will of God. At the same time, when we receive the body and blood of Christ, we commit to following the same example of discipleship Jesus instituted along with the Eucharist on the night before he was crucified. Jesus modelled that attending to the bodily needs of people is not divorced from caring for the needs of their souls. The practice of the corporal and spiritual works of mercy are derived from Jesus' teachings and example. So during these holy days and beyond, let us pray that the phrase, “They will know we are Christians by our love” becomes a fact not just a lyric to a song. Let us pray that our actions reflect the words we profess. So in memory of that holy night, I will wash your feet as a symbol of my love for and service to you.
1Brock, Rita Nakashima, and Rebecca Ann Parker. Saving Paradise: How Christianity Traded Love of This World for Crucifixion and Empire. Boston: Beacon Press, 2008.