(Scriptures for the Evening Mass of the Lord's Supper)
Audio for homily
Because of the difference in time zones between Italy and here,
photos and video of Pope Francis
celebrating the Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper
were online this afternoon.
He celebrated this Mass not at St. Peter’s in the Vatican
but in the chapel of the Rebibbia prison in Rome.
And there he washed the feet of 12 inmates, 6 men and women,
and a 13th person, the two-year old son of one of the women inmates.
I watched the video and saw the inmates smile and than weep
as Francis knelt down to wash their feet.
And as I watched I wondered what my response might be
were the pope washing my feet
and as soon as I asked the question,
there came to my heart the truth that someone greater than the pope
is waiting to wash my feet - and that someone is Jesus.
Jesus is waiting to wash my feet and he’s waiting to wash your feet,
at the end of a long day’s work at home, at the office,
in the plant or on the road.
He’s waiting to wash my feet if they haven’t moved much all day long
because they throb with the pain of arthritis or rheumatism
or because the sticks I call my legs just don’t move as well as they used to.
Jesus is waiting to wash my feet
no matter how bad they smell or how ugly they are,
regardless of aging toenails or corns or bunions.
He waits to wash my feet because they’re my feet and he loves them.
He waits to wash your feet because they’re your feet and he loves them.
He waits because he loves us from the tip of our toes
to the top of our heads.
And he waits to wash away whatever has stained our hearts.
He waits to wash away our sins – especially the ones
that most embarrass and most shame us.
He waits to wash away the fears and anxieties
we carry by the bushel and the backpack
until we’re bent over with worry’s weight burdening our shoulders.
Jesus waits to wash away the bad dreams that haunt my sleep
and the desires that derail me
as I try to make my way through a good life.
Jesus waits to wash away prejudice that keeps me
from loving and washing the feet of others who aren’t just like me.
Jesus waits to wash my hands of the selfishness and greed
that lead me to treat others unfairly, unjustly, dishonestly.
He waits to wash my hands of their violence, of any harm they’ve done;
he waits to pry open the clenched fist that waits to hurt another.
Jesus waits to wash away whatever comes between him and me,
whatever comes between my neighbor and me,
whatever comes between me and the person he calls me to be.
Too often we’re just like Peter in the gospel tonight.
We have a hundred reasons and more excuses
to keep Jesus at arm’s length:
to tuck our feet under the chair we sit in,
to pull up our socks and tie our shoes more tightly,
to hide from Jesus precisely what needs to be washed.
And what did Jesus say to Peter?
“If you don’t let me wash you,
you have no share in what I have to give you…”
Will we dare, upon hearing Jesus’ words tonight,
will we dare like Peter to say,
Wash me, Lord, from the tips of my toes to the top of my head!”
And if we dare do that - that’s but step one.
Jesus waits to wash our feet,
to wash our hearts and hands, to wash us all over, inside and out,
that we might learn how we are to wash our neighbor’s feet
and to welcome the neighbor who offers to wash ours.
When Jesus washes my feet and yours,
he invites me, he invites you, he invites all of us
to share a life of mutual service
that excludes no one – and welcomes in all.
This is not about random acts of kindness.
This is about building and sharing in an intentional community
of mutual service.
As you know, in the gospel according to John, as we heard tonight,
the account of the Last Supper says not a word about bread and wine
but rather focuses on washing those tired, dirty, smelly feet.
John, in other portions of his gospel, speaks at length and beautifully so
of the gift of Jesus that is ours
in eating his flesh and drinking his blood.
But in telling the story of the meal in the upper room,
John is content to let the washing of feet stand
as the sign, the gift and the command Jesus gives us
to love one another, to serve one another
as he has loved and served us.
Tonight, some of us will and some of us will not
have our feet washed.
The choice is left to each of us.
And that’s not what I’m preaching about tonight!
What I’m preaching about tonight is that all of us, without exception,
no one is left out of this,
must ponder and take seriously the desire of Jesus to wash our feet
and his command to us that we find ways to wash the feet of others.
Not just on Holy Thursday night but every day of our lives.
After washing feet we will go to the Lord’s Table,
to remember, to celebrate and to receive the sacrifice of Jesus
in the Eucharist.
May his Body and Blood nourish us,
cleanse us and wash us inside and out,
from the tips of our toes to the top of our heads.
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