Thursday, April 21, 2011

This is BIG

I waited, I waited for the Lord, and he stooped down to me.
Psalm 40:2

Holy Thursday, April 21, 2011
Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper—A

Exodus 12:1-8, 11-14
1Corinthians 11:23-26
John 13:1-15

God’s love for humanity is so big, so immense, and so high, that he makes himself small, insignificant, and low to lift us up. In John’s Gospel, we are told that Jesus, the Word made Flesh, “rose from supper and took off his outer garments. He took a towel and tied it around his waist,” and then began washing the disciples’ feet.

God stoops down, literally taking the form of a slave, to cleanse those enjoying the banquet with him. In doing this, he strips himself of divine privilege and wraps himself in the towel of servile humanity. However, Jesus does much more than simply wash the disciples’ feet. This action symbolically illustrates what he will do in reality on Good Friday, when he will be stripped of his garments and nailed to a cross to cleanse and free humanity—just as the slaughtered lamb at Passover saved the children of Israel in Egypt. In doing so, he offers all a seat at the heavenly banquet.

All this, of course, echoes the famous Christian hymn in St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians (2:7-8):
He emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
coming in human likeness;
and found human in appearance,
he humbled himself,
becoming obedient to death,
even death on a cross.
Tonight, we recall again God’s self-sacrificing love for us as demonstrated through posture while we commemorate the Lord’s Passion, Death, and Resurrection in the Liturgy of the Eucharist. God stoops down to us, allows himself to be broken and shared among us, so that we who are so broken may together become the whole Christ, blessed and shared with all.

Like Peter, who at first won’t allow Jesus to wash his feet, we who are so small want a God bigger than us, perhaps because that would "let us off the hook" in so many respects. Though God is bigger, he becomes small enough to be placed in our hands and on our tongues in the Eucharist. Kneeling before his disciples at the Last Supper, stripped of all dignity on the cross, and in the form of bread and wine in the Eucharist, the Son of God gives us his very self so that we may live in him and he may live in us.

Then, Jesus asks us as he did the apostles:

“Do you realize what I have done for you?”

Our honest answer must be, “No.”

However, our honest prayer can be, “Not yet. Wash me.”

Sometimes growing in maturity means merely recognizing our capacity for it—and being small enough to ask for it. Stooped down, broken and shared in love for the life of the world, we are raised as the Body of Christ higher than we ever imagined.

God is at work in you both to will and to do.
Philippians 2:13

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