I Corinthians 11: 23-26; John 13: 1-15
Since Pope Francis was elected a few weeks back, it’s hard not to turn the news on without seeing him doing something that is fascinating people and the media around the world. Even today I saw him on the news as he celebrated this same Eucharist at the prison in Italy. So often, it hasn’t even been his words that have drawn the attention of others, as much as his actions. There has always been debate about who’s feet can be washed at this celebration, and of course, in his style, today he washed men’s feet and women’s feet and even Muslims feet! He is showing us first hand what this gospel is all about and what this Eucharist is all about. He is showing us his vision of this poor Church that is to be about the poor. He’s turning, as the Gospel tends to do, everything on its head.
I have to believe, though, like Jesus, at some point he will turn the table on us. For the time being it’s nice to watch him and it makes great news, but like Jesus, eventually the command will come…Imitate me; do this in remembrance of me. This isn’t new, what he is doing, he is simply showing us the command given to the disciples in this passage from John; but not only showing us but doing it himself.
Jesus too has the disciples right where he wants them. He’s about to lead them exactly where they do not want to go. They will do everything in their power to avoid it. Sure he understands that they still don’t know what all of this is about, but in order to imitate the Christ, they are going to go to that forbidden place, the place of the Cross, the place of death. They will have to go and face their own poverty and darkness.
Yet, washing the feet and the celebration of the Last Supper and this Eucharist are by no means separate. As a matter of fact, one should lead to the other. What it is we receive here this evening isn’t just ours to keep. It’s not something that we just adore and worship. It is a way of life. What we receive here should compel us to go and imitate and to do in remembrance. It should catapult us out to the far reaches to wash one another’s feet, regardless of who they are. It often catapults us into the recesses of our heart and our poverty, exactly where we don’t want to go, but exactly where Christ calls us to go. First to have our feet washed by him and to be led to imitate and do in remembrance.
We gather this evening with only the bare essentials and as you know, by the end of this celebration it will be all gone, stripped naked. We will be led to that place we avoid…our own poverty, our own nakedness and places of vulnerability, that intimate moment with Christ without all the trappings, into our emptiness, to where we most feel uncomfortable. It is only in going there we we can truly understand what it is we will celebrate on Sunday.
Tonight, and in the next few days, we must have the courage to go to those recesses within ourselves. If we don’t know how to get there, maybe start by thinking of the person who’s feet you wouldn’t and couldn’t wash at this moment. That’s hard to admit but it is a door into our own poverty; no it doesn’t always have to be physical poverty, but a spiritual one that brings to the fore our longing and desire. If we are to become a poor Church and for the poor, we must first confront our own. We need to be aware of our own need to have our feet washed so that we can embrace the way of life in this Eucharist and to imitate and do in remembrance to the feet of others.