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The Passport to Christ’s Kingdom—Humility
Holy Thursday―Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper
Before the feast of Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to pass from this world to the Father. He loved his own in the world and he loved them to the end. The devil had already induced Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot, to hand him over. So, during supper, fully aware that the Father had put everything into his power and that he had come from God and was returning to God, he rose from supper and took off his outer garments. He took a towel and tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and dry them with the towel around his waist. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Master, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus answered and said to him, “What I am doing, you do not understand now, but you will understand later.” Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “Unless I wash you, you will have no inheritance with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Master, then not only my feet, but my hands and head as well.” Jesus said to him, “Whoever has bathed has no need except to have his feet washed, for he is clean all over; so you are clean, but not all.” For he knew who would betray him; for this reason, he said, “Not all of you are clean.” So when he had washed their feet and put his garments back on and reclined at table again, he said to them, “Do you realize what I have done for you? You call me ‘teacher’ and ‘master,’ and rightly so, for indeed I am. If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.”
Opening Prayer: Lord, open my heart to hear the whispers of your heart as you pour it out to me during this prayer.
- Jesus Came to Humble Himself: Jesus was truly and fully God, but in order to bring about our salvation he became truly human. This was a great humiliation for him. Though almighty, all-knowing, and infinite, he accepted limitations on his power, his knowledge, and his infinity. Though the Creator of the universe, he became a creature. As St. Paul said, “… though he was in the form of God, [he] did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:6-8). Our Lord loves us that much!
- The Essence of His Mission/Washing Their Feet: Jesus’s disciples still believed he would be a conquering Messiah, a true descendant of King David who would wage war to establish a kingdom like David’s. They were even more convinced of this after seeing his triumphant entry into Jerusalem—just as the prophets said, he entered like a king riding to his coronation. The crowds acclaimed him. The Jewish king was traditionally crowned on the Passover and they were celebrating it now. Soon all their hopes would come true, the disciples thought. How mystified they must have been when Jesus washed their feet like a slave. They were confused—what about the coronation? When would the glory begin? What kind of king was this?
- A Lesson in Humility: None of the disciples would ever think of washing the feet of others. After all, they weren’t slaves! Yet they knew Jesus was trying to teach them something. The next day, Jesus would do something even more humbling. He would die for sinners. The perfect, innocent, immortal Creator of the universe would give his life in order to spare ours. By washing their feet, Jesus was trying to give them a key to understanding what the next day’s events would mean, and an example of the kind of King he is. In his kingdom, there is to be no more fighting for the first place. We are to love others and serve them. We are to put others before ourselves. In this way, each of us brings about the kingdom.
Conversing with Christ: Lord, help me to understand and absorb your lesson of humility. I am so much like the Apostles. I want to be first. I want glory. I want people to look up to me. I want them to like me. This is not what I should be seeking. Instead, I need the love that will allow me to lower myself to serve my brothers and sisters in this world. And if they never realize or thank me for my efforts, so much the better. That’s real love and humility.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will look for an opportunity to secretly serve another.
For Further Reflection: Humility Rules: Saint Benedict’s Twelve-Step Guide to Genuine Self-Esteem by J. Augustine Wetta, O.S.B.
Father James Swanson, LC, is from Miles City, Montana, joined the Legionaries of Christ in 1983, and currently works in Atlanta, Georgia. He enjoys books, craft beers, and extreme birding.