He is here!

Easter is here. Christ is risen. We have journeyed through the desert of Lent, through temptations and the reality that our failings and shortcomings have put Jesus on the cross. And now throughout this season of Easter we celebrate the victory He has won for us through His resurrection.

In the Gospel today(John 20.9-31) we hear about Jesus appearing to His disciples who were, in hiding in a closed room, afraid of what would happen to them. Amidst their doubts and fears, probably amidst their guilt for not having done enough to prevent Jesus’ death. Amidst the sorrow of losing their close friend and teacher they had the doors shut, for what security and safety they could get. All of a sudden Jesus came and stood among them. He entered into their doubts and fears, their sorrows and guilt, and brought His peace. He greeted them twice, “Peace be with you,” and they were filled with joy.

How often in our lives do we settle in our sorrow, our guilt, or allow our fears to close us up. When we are hurt we close our hearts to others, but also sometimes to the Lord; Jesus, who wants to bring us His peace.

This scene that we see in the Gospel is also that of the beginning of the Church. With his disciples gathered in the room Jesus sends them out and commissions them, with peace, “Receive the Holy Spirit,” inviting them to receive life in Him through the working of the Spirit and to share that life with others. Jesus also calls us to receive His life, His Spirit, which empowers us to be His life to the world: “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”

Further to this we see, in the first reading(Acts 4.32-35), the early church in action, the gifts and blessings received by each being shared with all. “There was not a needy person among them.” We see this same model in families(parents giving to their children and children contributing their joy and unique gifts), and I also see this model as a large part of your culture, the native culture, that all are cared for and supported by one another(I witnessed this example recently having a community meal after a funeral with one clan cooking & helping with the needs of the other clan). The church’s idea, as we see in scripture, is that all would be ‘of one heart and soul!’

This idea of community, “church”, is affirmed by something greater than us, as we see Thomas’ response to Jesus’ appearance: “My Lord, and my God.” This is a profound response of faith, Thomas’ belief that Jesus is God; If Jesus is truly here, back from the dead, then all that He has said about Himself and everything He has claimed to be is true. We see the Spirit at work, always leading to the truth. This is the Church’s foundation.

The Lord comes among us here today as a community of believers, and whether we come with our fears, sorrows, guilt, or hurts, or whether we come seeking to be filled with faith and truth and peace, Jesus breathes His Spirit upon us, filling us with His life. He invites us through this intimate encounter(as He did with Thomas, “Give me your hand, put it into my side.”) to the experience of His Church(His body), to receive the unique gifts He has for each of us and, not to hold on to them for ourselves, to share those gifts with others!

Holy Thursday

As we reflect on the readings from our celebration this evening we see Jesus’ actions in 2 key areas:

  • The Institution of the Eucharist, and
  • The Washing of the Disciples feet

The Institution of the Eucharist, which we hear about in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians(1 Cor. 11.23-26), is the fulfillment of the Passover meal, which we hear about in the book of Exodus(12.1-8, 11-14). Just as the firstborn of the Israelites was spared by the blood of the Passover lamb, so Jesus is for us as baptized Christians the Passover lamb who saves us, for all time, from the death of our sins. He draws us into eternal life with him, by his sacrifice. In the words of Pope Benedict, “The Institution of the Eucharist demonstrates how Jesus’ death, for all it’s violence and absurdity, became in him a supreme act of love and mankind’s definitive deliverance from evil.” –Sacramentum Caritatis

This is what we celebrate every time we partake of the Eucharist. Jesus gives His body, as the priest speaks(in the person of Christ), “This is my Body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me”, “This cup is the new covenant in my Blood. Do this as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” This is the Institution of the Eucharist; the Last Supper, the first celebration of the Holy Mass.

Just prior to this Last Supper Jesus actually washes the feet of his apostles(John 13.1-15). He is on the dusty, dirty floor with a basin, a bowl, water, and towel. He washes what would have been the dirtiest part of a person, in those days. They would have walked across dirt and sand long distances in sandals. The Son of God washed those dirty feet, taking the place of where a servant or slave would have been instructed to be. The apostles would have been stunned at this act of humility and condescension, when it was proper that they should have washed his feet.

We live in a culture today that is very ME focused; what do I need? I will do what I want and I desire. I will do what feels good for me.

How do we flip this culture to what Jesus is trying to teach us in the gospel? It will take a changing of our perspective, our expectations, and our attitude. Jesus’ attitude of servanthood was in direct contrast to that of the disciples, who had recently been arguing among themselves as to which of them was the greatest(Luke 22.24). Since there was no servant present among them it would have never occurred to them to wash one another’s feet.

It is by Jesus’ washing of the disciples’ feet that he calls them, into his priesthood, to do the same for others and to be servants of all. His call is also for us, “I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you.” How do we practically do this as his followers?

[As parents we do this often when we help our child when it is not easy. As workers we do this often when we drop our ego and give credit to someone else’s good idea. When we reach out to a co-worker we may not care for and talk to them. When we smile and offer a helping hand. As strangers we do this often when we smile at a stranger, offer to help carry something for them or help in any way.

As children of God we do this when we help the least of our brother and sisters. When we do something that we don’t want to but know it will help someone else, when we put someone else’s needs before our own.]*

We can wash another’s feet but we have to change our focus, to be centered on others rather than centered on self. We can start today, by finding one way to wash another’s feet, then two tomorrow, and three the next day. It will become easier as we grow and, even if it means getting dirty or uncomfortable, we will learn this beautiful lesson Jesus was trying to teach all those years ago.

*[Practical suggestions for washing others’ feet adapted from Theresa Vogel]