Holy Thursday 2022 Preaching by Sister Mary Margaret Pachucki, OP April 14, 2022 This evening as we celebrate Holy Thursday, we recall the final meal that Jesus had with his friends before his crucifixion. This is implied rather than explicitly mentioned. There is no actual breaking of bread and pouring of wine in John’s gospel. What we do have is Jesus washing the feet of his closest friends. I would like to reflect on this intimate gesture from two perspectives: First, from the perspective of receiving love and being served; second, from the perspective of giving love and serving others. Receiving Love and Being Served As we heard in Tuesday’s gospel reading from John 13, Jesus knows Judas will betray him and that in the coming hours each one of his closest friends will fail him. And so, Jesus is not surprised when Peter first refuses to have his feet washed. Peter is bewildered, unprepared to receive this generous act of love. He may have been out of his comfort zone to accept such a powerful expression of Jesus’ love for him. Like Peter, the disciples feel unworthy of Jesus’ unconditional love, but it is not theirs to deserve. Despite their shortfalls and inadequacies, Jesus freely gives them the gift of his love. The only time we usually let someone else wash our feet is when we can’t do it ourselves: we’re too young, too old, or too sick. To wash another person’s feet is a very intimate act. In her poem “ God in an Apron ,” Macrina Wiederkehr describes Jesus’ actions with these words: …He touched my feet He held them in his strong brown hands He washed them. I can still feel the water I can still feel the touch of his hands I can still see the look in his eyes. Many people are not comfortable with this degree of intimacy with another person, or do not feel “good enough” to have others show them this much love. We often are accustomed to seeing the face of Jesus in others that we serve, but it is difficult sometimes to see Jesus’s face in those who wish to serve us. We need to be open to receive Jesus’ love through the hands, and feet, and hearts of others. They have been called by Jesus to be servant, to be Jesus for us. Giving Love and Serving Others Holy Thursday has deep roots in selflessness, a call to service and putting the interest of others first. As scripture often does, John’s words invite us to go deeper into the spiritual quest that is ours. In her poem Macrina continues her reflection of Jesus’s actions with these words: …He then handed me the towel and said, “As I have done so you must do.” Let your tenderness encircle everyone you meet. Wash their feet Not because you have to, Because you want to. As people of the Eucharist, you and I are called to be people of the basin and towel. Jesus hands us the apron, the towel and water basin. We are invited to emulate this Jesus through lives of loving service to others. We wash feet when we make a phone call to a friend. We wash feet when we smile at someone and wish him or her a bright “Good Morning.” We wash feet when we write to our Congressperson to support a proposed bill to enhance human welfare. Bread and Wine, basin and towel. These symbols are at the very center of our identity as followers of Jesus. They are countercultural because they challenge the “Me First” thinking that often prevails in our society. They signify an approach to life different from the one that tells us to look after the needs of others only after we have taken care of our own needs. Jesus asks us to love each other as he loves us. Love is not simply an emotion or feeling; it is a decision. Our love for each other calls to be seen and experienced practically and expressed through the quality and actions of our daily lives. When we love and serve each other, we do it in memory of Jesus. On this first day of the Triduum, we recognize God’s unfailing gift of undeserved, unconditional, and unifying love for us. Let us ask for the grace to respond to God’s call to love and serve one another and to let others love and serve us. Let us do this in memory of Jesus.