Holy Thursday – Mass of the Lord’s Supper
(John 13:1-15) Shortly after I became a Catholic, the church that our family attended called to ask if either my husband or I would like to have our feet washed at the Holy Thursday Mass. I knew this was a real honour, but I have to confess that my first thought was, “A priest wash my feet? In front of hundreds of people?” To be honest, I have always been a bit sensitive about my feet. Although they do a good job of getting me from point A to B, they don’t look anything like the lovely, dainty feet of many women I know. And what if they smelled after I took off my shoes? All I could think was how gross it would be for the priest to have to touch my feet, how embarrassed I would feel to have him see how unattractive and imperfect they really were.
As I was thinking back on this incident, it dawned on me that our sins are a lot like that – they are (spiritually) dirty, smelly, and repulsive. They separate us from God. No matter how hard we try to cover them up, nothing can hide the fact that sin is still there, lurking beneath the surface and poisoning our souls. Each one of us needs to be washed by Our Lord; each one of us needs to be made clean. But like Peter in today’s Gospel, we might shrink at first from allowing Jesus to come to us. How difficult it is for us to accept an act of such great humility, knowing how unworthy we really are!
But Jesus isn’t put off by the stains and scars that sin has left on our souls. He loves us unconditionally, despite all our sins! When we stop trying to hide from God, when we take off our ‘socks and shoes’ and lay our souls bare before Him, Jesus can heal us. He quietly kneels at our feet as He gently and carefully washes away all of the filth, all of the grime that conceals the original beauty of our souls. He clothes us with a fine robe and places a ring on our finger. And then He – together with all of the Saints in heaven – rejoices!
Tonight, Jesus – in the person of our priests – will humbly kneel to wash the feet of those who have been chosen to represent the disciples, the men called by Jesus to be the first priests of His infant Church. Let us unite ourselves to them in prayer, quietly repeating the words of Peter, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!”
– Sharon van der Sloot
“Being a priest means being a servant … through an exemplary life. … Priests are stewards of the means of salvation, of the sacraments, especially the Eucharist and Reconciliation, not to dispense them according to their own will, but as humble servants for the good of the People of God. It is a life profoundly marked by this service: by care for the flock, by faithful celebration of the liturgy, and by ready concern for all brothers and sisters, especially for the poorest and most needy. In practicing this ‘pastoral charity’ modeled on Christ and with Christ, wherever the Lord may call you, every priest can completely fulfill himself and his vocation.”1 Pope Benedict XVI
1 Pope Benedict XVI, Homily from The Altar of the Chair in the Vatican Basilica, November 4, 2011. Quoted in Magnificat, Holy Week 2013 – Vol. 15, No. 1, 125.