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Weekly Message 04-24-08: Great and Holy Thursday

Great and Holy Thursday

It was just before the Passover Feast, Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and to go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love John 13: 1.

Through a series of questions, of introspection of heart and soul, through an examination of our lives, let us come to understand a sublime lesson our Lord wishes to teach us on this glorious feast day.

Prior to instituting the sacramental Mystery of the Eucharist, of the nourishing-of the-soul Body and Blood from heaven, our Lord provides an example to his disciples which endures to this day. The Saviour does a great deal to prepare his followers for the trauma of his death. He tells them why and shows them how. He gives them inoculating shocks that condition them for the greatest one. He indicated how far He would go to serve by touching the untouchables, loving the unlovable, and stooping to wash dirty feet before his last meal with the disciples. He freely mixed love with towel and basin go give them a hint of what it means to serve.

Jesus example of loving service that climaxed on the cross included countless startling earlier moments. Few capture our imagination and arouse our emotions like the picture of Jesus kneeling before Peter and the others to wash their feet. Will we allow his example to touch our own lives?

Jesus knew that the Father had given him authority over everything and that he had come from God and would return to God. So he got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist, and poured water into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the towel he had around him John 13: 3 - 5.

Our Lord knew one of his disciples already decided to betray him. Another would deny him by the next morning. Even this night, they would all desert him. In the next hours they would repeatedly display ignorance, laziness, and lack of trust. It was indeed a sorry lot that gathered in the upper room. Even with good reason to reject the entire group, Jesus deliberately shows them the full extent of his love. The actions, words, and feelings He shared with his disciples convey the highest form of love because his disciples do not deserve nor appreciate immediately his love.

Jesus knows us as fully as He knew his disciples. He knows intimately of every time and every way we deny or desert him. Yet knowing us, He willingly dies for us. Jesus continually displays his love toward us and reaches out to us. He continues to serve us in the Divine Liturgy which is also called the Lord's Supper, and He guides and encourages us by the Holy Spirit. He serves us as we are taught to serve one another. Ape we prepared to love one another with the same kind of love Jesus demonstrates to us?

Christ comes among us as servant. God's Son wants to serve our needs! Astounding we say, but is it compelling enough to imitate his example?

Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands and that he had come from God and was going to God, rose from the supper and laid aside his garments, took a towel and girded himself.

After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the feet of the disciples, and to wipe them with the towel with which he was girded. John 13: 3 - 5.

Our Lord teaches us we must learn to worship as an everyday, ordinary lifestyle, not as something different or unique. Even if we took part in wonderful, powerful worship once a week from a church pew, it would not be enough. The Spirit of God accompanies us everywhere we go and we can worship him in the midst of daily life and all its problems which in reality provide us with reasons to worship and enjoy it even more.

It is a question of whether we have an eternal perspective or simply a limited earthly, transitory one. Wherever we go, whatever we do, the Lord longs to be our constant companion. We have the opportunity to repose and worship him all through the day. He washes the dirty and dusty feet of his disciples, so the details of our daily preoccupations do not make any difference.

If we but practice his presence in our lives, as we do today by being present in our pilgrimage towards the victorious Resurrection by way of the cross, we find an eternal perspective taking root in our souls. We begin to see this world through heavenly eyes and that all its purposes become from time to time emphatic, and serve but one overall perspective: showing us our own dignity, possessed of Immortal souls, eager to be united with our inherent destiny: heaven itself. The trials we encounter are then understood as trivial and the blessings will be more obvious. We then perceive every person we encounter as Christ sees them and are not surprised if we are eager to wash a foot or two ourselves.

Wherever we go, then, will be a fine place to be, simply because it will offer the opportunity for service in the name of the Lord. And whatever we do will be filled with irrepressible joy, because we are always in the company of the Son of God, the Servant of servants, the triumphant Lord God of creation!

Is that the perspective we concentrate on or do we attempt to evade and avoid the inevitable in our lives? Is it constantly and daily recognizable that we are created to be saints?

After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples' feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him John 13:5.

The Lord Jesus loves his people so immensely, that everyday he is still doing for them much that is analogous to washing their dirty feet. The poorest actions He accepts; their deepest sorrow He experiences himself; their slenderest wishes He also hears, and their every transgression, He is eager to forgive if we repent. He is still their servant as well as best friend and master ... humbly, patiently He yet goes about among his people with the basin and the towel, cleaning up after us the every mess we make of our lives.

He does this when He puts away from us day by day our constant infirmities and sins. It is a great act of eternal love when Christ once for all absolves the sinner and returns him to the family of God, but what condescending patience there is when the Saviour with much long-suffering bears the often recurring follies of his wayward disciple; day by day, and hour by hour, washing away the multiplied transgressions of his erring but yet beloved child! While we find sustaining comfort and peace of soul in our Lord's daily cleansing, will its legitimate influence upon us be to increase our watchfulness, and quicken our desire for holiness? Is always and entirely so?

Jesus answered, "A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you." For he knew who was going to betray him and that was why he said not everyone was clean" John 13: 10, 11.

How great is the example the Lord shows us of enduring evil! But how far greater is his model of humility and service, even to those who do not stop denying and betraying him! How is it that the Lord gives us this example to show us we should not give up counseling our neighbors and loved ones even if they are not affected by our words? For incurable wounds are wounds that cannot be healed by harsh medications or by more mild ones. Similarly, the soul, when it has been taken captive by the evil one, gives itself up to wickedness, refuses to consider what is profitable for it, and unwilling to accept goodness despite great counsel. As if it is deaf, it will not benefit from any advice. Not that it cannot, it is because it will not! This happened in the case of Judas. Nevertheless, Christ although He knows this before hand, does not stop doing everything to counsel him, to provide him with a good example, to wash him not only from sin, but from the dirt of the earth on his feet. The Saviour attempts to show him that although he comes from the earth, he need not behave as if earth is his only destiny. Since we know that Jesus did this for our beneficial example, we should never stop striving to set the careless right once again even if it seems no good comes from our counsel. The Lord washes his feet in humility but in pride, sin dirties them once again and they instead run off to betray him eagerly! One of the most important questions the Mystical Supper raises for us is: Does this also characterize and describe us?

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