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Blessed Are You
Thursday of the Fourth Week of Easter
When Jesus had washed the disciples’ feet, he said to them: “Amen, amen, I say to you, no slave is greater than his master nor any messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you understand this, blessed are you if you do it. I am not speaking of all of you. I know those whom I have chosen. But so that the Scripture might be fulfilled, the one who ate my food has raised his heel against me. From now on I am telling you before it happens, so that when it happens you may believe that I AM. Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.”
Opening Prayer: I want to believe and follow you, Lord Jesus, but it is difficult for me at times to understand how I am to act and speak as your disciple in the circumstances of my day. I believe in you, Jesus; help my unbelief.
- Slave and Messenger: Several verses before this Gospel passage and the few after it revealed that Jesus had an enemy among his Apostles. When Jesus said, “No slave is greater than his master nor any messenger greater than the one who sent him,” he was warning his Apostles of this sinister threat. Judas had already accepted the blood money in exchange for turning Jesus over to the authorities, but it was not too late for him to repent here. He did not. Perhaps Judas believed he was in control, able to twist events to his advantage without losing his place among his brother Apostles. Judas would soon realize he was never in control, but instead had become a slave to Satan and his messenger of evil. We too often fall for the lie that we are in control of our lives. God has given every person free will, but “The exercise of freedom does not imply a right to say or do everything. It is false to maintain that man, ‘the subject of this freedom,’ is ‘an individual who is fully self-sufficient and whose finality is the satisfaction of his own interests in the enjoyment of earthly goods’” (CCC 1740). “Freedom makes a man a moral subject. When he acts deliberately, man is, so to speak, the father of his acts. Human acts, that is, acts that are freely chosen in consequence of a judgment of conscience, can be morally evaluated. They are either good or evil” (CCC 1749). Jesus taught his Apostles, and teaches us, that our acts of free will are subject to two choices: good or evil.
- In Control: John writes Jesus was “…fully aware that the Father had put everything into his power and that he had come from God and was returning to God […] (John 13:3), and then described the Son of God, fully empowered, stooping to wash the feet of his Apostles. This is the amazing witness of Jesus’ words, “Blessed are the meek, they shall possess the land” (Matthew 5:4). Meekness, Archbishop Fulton Sheen says, is “self-possession. That is why the reward for meekness is possession.” The Greek origin of the word meek is “strength under control.” In ancient Greece, war horses were meeked: trained to be strong and powerful yet under control and willing to submit. Jesus was fully in control of his humanity through his divinity, manifested in his obedience to the Father. This is meekness, the strength under control that Jesus witnessed to us, and we are called to imitate him.
- I AM: “From now on I am telling you before it happens, so that when it happens you may believe that I AM.” Jesus was taking the precious little time he had left to prepare his Apostles for what was to come. He had spent the past three years walking with them, teaching them, and witnessing to what they were to do, and now it all came down to their belief in his words that he, Jesus, their friend and Master, is God: I AM. “Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.” When the situation soon became out of the Apostles’ control and their Lord was taken from them, their belief was shaken but not destroyed. This outcome was helped by the witness of those who stood at his cross: the Virgin Mary, Mary Magdalene, John, and a few others. It would be Mary Magdalene whom the resurrected Jesus sent and was received by the Apostles. When we experience our “out of control” situations, we can remember that Jesus prepares us and teaches us what to do through the graces we receive in the sacramental life of his Catholic Church. “If you understand this, blessed are you if you do it.”
Conversing with Christ: Lord, so often I try to control situations, and this leads to division and unrest instead of the unity and peace I want. You teach us that the way to unity and peace can only be achieved by surrendering our will to you. You are the way, Jesus. I will follow you.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will make an intentional effort to grow in the virtue of meekness through prayer and acts of submission in your name to the proper authorities in my circumstances.
For Further Reflection: Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, The Cries of Jesus from the Cross, An Anthology.
Nan Balfour is an events coordinator for Pilgrim Center of Hope, a Catholic evangelization ministry that answers Christ’s call by guiding people to encounter him in order to live in hope as pilgrims in daily life. She is also a mother, writer, and speaker on Catholic topics.
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