05 Editorial - Spanning Service to Sacrifice - Fr Anthony Charanghat

posted Mar 22, 2018, 7:19 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Mar 22, 2018, 11:56 PM ]
On Maundy Thursday when we remember the institution of the Eucharist, the Gospel chosen for the Liturgy is not from the synoptics that describe the words of the institution; instead, the Church proclaims John's good news of the washing of the feet. It is the gospel that offers radical challenge to the conventional ideas of leadership, a summary of Jesus' life of selfless service that was a reproach to those who lusted after status, and a sacrificial love that was unafraid to place others before self, so different from our self-seeking society. The foot-washing at the Last Supper spans the spectrum from His life of service to His ultimate sacrificial Love on the Cross.

On the night of this Last Supper, 'the hour' is dawning - the hour when Jesus will show those whom He loved in the world, how He will love them to the end. He begins to dispossess Himself; on that night of Thursday, He himself will lay off His garments; the next evening, his clothing will be ripped off Him by others. Wrapping a servant's towel around Himself, Jesus begins to show a visible sign of His humble service; the next day, naked on the Cross, He will be wrapped in nothing but His own blood.

He is the Good Shepherd who earlier had said:"For this reason, the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again." (Jn 10:17) In His hands, He takes the basin full of water and His disciples' dusty, soiled feet. These are symbols of all things the Father has put into Jesus' hands. Authority is about to be redefined in a new 'transfiguration' - not dazzling as on the mountaintop, but humbly on the floor, in terms of towel, basin and feet.

Jesus begins to wash His disciples' feet without any discrimination. Judas is there. He is not passed by; the community of disciples is never an elite gathering of the perfect. Peter protests about Jesus washing his feet. Does he suspect that a Master who gets down on His knees on the floor as a humble servant will expect the same of him? When warned that the unwashed, those who do not accept Jesus as a servant, who prefer a different kind of a Messiah, will have no part of Jesus, Peter becomes overzealous and enthusiastic about washing of his hands and head as well. Jesus explains to him that it is the quality of relationship, and not the quantity, that makes a true disciple.

Jesus then challenges His disciples about the understanding of what He has done. He reminds them that they rightly call Him 'Teacher and Lord', but He has just given them a subversive example of Lordship, where there is a reversal of the servant and the served status; a service that includes both the struggling faithful and the blatantly betraying. "If I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, then you also have to wash one another's feet," Jesus says. Jesus gives them a New Commandment of Love.

Their loving service is to be indiscriminate and inclusive, a ministry both to those whom they consider faithful and those they think are unfaithful. Blessed by the loving service of Jesus, they are now called to be given, broken, consumed in the service of one another. This is communion; this is what the Eucharist is all about. This is why the Church chooses this Gospel on this night.

The way out of this room leads to Gethsemane and Golgotha, to self-giving, the breaking of the Bread and the consuming of the Servant in passion and death, and the affirmation of His Father when Jesus passes over to His Resurrection.