Fr. Dale’s Holy Thursday Homily

Holy Thursday 2024

Gospel:  John 13:1-15

March 28, 2024

We enter tonight into the Sacred Triduum, three holy days that culminate in the celebration of Christ’s Resurrection, by placing ourselves in humble service to others.  The solemnity, the symbols, and the beauty of this liturgy need very little – if any – explanation.  We can focus on many symbols tonight, but let out attention be drawn to the Gospel we have just heard proclaimed and the sacred action which will follow this homily: the mandatum (washing of feet). 

Instead of hearing the familiar story told in the synoptic Gospels, we hear instead John’s account of what happened after the meal Jesus shared with his disciples.  By telling them HOW Jesus washed the feet of these disciples, John makes the necessary connection between servanthood and Eucharist.  This is called mandatum because it is Jesus’ mandate that his disciples to as he did.  “Do this, do this love, in memory of me.  Do this Eucharist in memory of me.  Pour yourself out in complete service to others as I have done”.  Early in Church history, the mandatum was considered a sacrament; a transforming encounter with Christ. 

Sharing in the Eucharist means washing the feet of others. 

Feet are an interesting part of our bodies.  They help support us and keep us standing upright.  They prevent us from falling by keeping us balanced. Above all, feet are essential to walking as we take one step at a time.  They may not be the most glorious part of our body, but they have a major role to play.  Ask anyone who has lost the use of a foot.

The Hebrews walked from slavery into freedom.  The prophets walked from place to place announcing the message of Jesus.  Even at the time of Jesus, walking was THE mode of travel.  So, celebrating the Last Supper, Jesus, who took the role of slave and that of the host, washed disciples’ feet.  By doing this, Jesus not only performed a practical act of offering comfort to weary feet, he also emphasized that if anyone wishes to be a follower, she or he must be a servant to all.

The Hebrews were instructed to eat the Passover meal with their loins girt (that is to say, flexed, ready to walk), sandals on their feet, and staffs in hand ready to “hit the road”.  Before the journey, the Hebrews were instructed by God to prepare a meal.  They would need nourishment for the journey.  This meal was not one for the sake of eating/killing hunger – it was a sacred meal.  So they were prepared to hear God say, “Ready, set… go!”… they were called by God to set out on a journey with no clear knowledge of WHERE they would be going… kind of like handing your phone to someone who would program your GPS, click start, and tell you to follow it … wherever it tells to you walk … forever how long. 

Jesus shows the disciples the meaning of perfect love.  Just as Jesus knew the twelve, He also knows us.  In fact, Jesus is aware of our past sins as well as those we will commit.  In all of this, Jesus still loves us.  Knowing fully who we are, Jesus is still willing to serve us and asks us to do the same.  Doing Eucharist means service to one another on the journey of life. 

Where charity and love prevail, there is God.”  Let us commit ourselves to the poor, to humble service as a Eucharistic people who live by the mandate of Christ. 

Let us go forth and wash the feet of others.