For centuries before Christ, service was something people were forced to do. Slavery produced servants who tended to the master’s every need.
But even the lowliest of slaves would never be asked to humiliate himself by washing the dust-covered feet of his Master. In Jesus’ time, it would be too insulting and too demeaning to make such a request of a slave.
That’s what made Jesus’ action so shocking to his disciples, and especially poor, naïve Peter. Peter is so proud and so fiercely loyal to Christ. Little does he know that he’s about to betray his Master in a self-protecting act of human cowardice. In Jesus’ hour of needed, Peter will run and hide.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus is lowering himself to a station lower than a slave to teach his followers a powerful lesson of His expectations for discipleship.
Service out of love is not slavery. Service out of love is stepping into a new reality demanded of the followers of the Son of God.
Jesus makes it crystal clear when he gets out ties the towel around his waist and pours water into the basin.
“Unless I wash you, you will have no inheritance with me.”
After washing His disciples’ feet in preparation for their Last Supper together, Jesus delivers His most powerful message to us all.
“I’ve given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.”
Jesus is calls us to become a loving gift of self for others. This is what he is symbolizing in the washing of the feet.
Seems easy enough, but it’s really not. It’s quite hard and demanding to be Christ to others.
When we serve others in communion with Christ and communion with our creator, the Holy Spirit, The Helper is unleashed and this communion with the Holy Trinity transforms our lives forever.
Catholics live a sacramental life. From birth to death, Catholics are given by Christ life-giving sacraments: Baptism, Eucharist, Reconciliation, Confirmation, Marriage, Holy Orders and Anointing for the Sick.
But in receiving these sacraments, we are asked to become what we are given. We are commanded to be a Sacrament of Service to others.
Pope Francis shocked the world one year ago today when he washed the feet of criminals, Muslims and women, the same way Jesus shocked his followers with his humiliating acts of service in love today.
And, like Peter, sometimes we can fail to understand the lesson Jesus is teaching and Pope Francis is imitating here.
The Sacrament of Service is so important that our failure to be Christ to others bars us from our eternal inheritance.
We’ve listened powerful stories from to our fellow students as they talked about their acts of service in love to others.
These acts are not always easy. They require us to give our all as we serve the needs of others.
But when we step into this new reality offered by Christ, our lives can change forever.
Our lives change forever because we learn the powerful message offered in today’s Gospel: Only in serving others and denying our own self-interests, can we find the true happiness and peace.
Jesus’s final hour has come. His time has run out.
In His final moments of life, He points to the cross and reminds us that pouring out ourselves as a sacrifice for others is what he expects out of each and every one of us.
This is how we earn our eternal Kingdom. This is the key that unlocks the gates of heaven for us all.