So today our Lenten journey for this year comes to a close and we begin our celebration of the triduum — a single Mass that spans three days and invites us to celebrate and think about some of the greatest mysteries of God’s involvement among human kind.
Our first reading celebrates one of those great mysteries, as we are taken back to one of the earliest covenants in salvation history, Passover. As great as this mystery is, the centerpiece of our celebration of the Word today really focuses on Jesus washing the feet of His disciples. Of all the things that he could have done, why did He choose this particular action?
It is obvious this was done intentionally. It was not just a random act of kindness; it was to teach and instruct. Given it was the day before the Passover celebration, it could be looked at as a sort of a ritualized cleansing — like one of the many other rituals for purification that were used by the Jewish people. With the reference to bathing, some commentators feel that it’s a reference and a reminder of baptism. It is a symbol, according to some, of the crucifixion Jesus will undergo and the cleansing power of that sacrifice. Along those same lines, its placement in the gospel, when compared to some of the other gospels, suggests that it is John’s way of talking about Eucharist, the perpetual giving of Jesus, that to this very day we celebrate each time we gather for Mass.
Jesus in the washing of his disciples feet is clearly a tool to remind us that if we are to follow him we must put the well-being of others ahead of our own and be a people of service. So many of you, out there now, are doing that in such simple ways just like Jesus did. When you put a mask on to go to the store, carefully wash your hands, or help someone get to the store — you wash the feet of the disciples. When you take only what you need at the grocery store, or go to the job that is essential right now despite your fear, or keep distance from your family so that you will not bring them any illness — at those moments, you wash the feet of the disciples.
My brothers and sisters, what Jesus teaches us today is that in our everyday, common, simple gestures and kindness — we not only wash the feet of his disciples, but we are his disciples. We become his reflection as presence in our world. As the old Christian spiritual goes, they will know we are Christians by our love, by our love, they will know we are Christians, by our love.