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Homily For Holy Thursday

Holy Thursday April 6, 2023

Exodus 12:1-8, 11-14; 1 Corinthians 11 :23-26; John 13:1-15

I always find a certain discomfort when I read or hear the readings for Holy Thursday. Perhaps I am even a bit repulsed when I start thinking about touching another person's feet, let alone washing them. It seems, at one and the same time, both really gross and way too intimate. Peter clearly feels the same way. In the Gospel, he insists that Jesus should not be reduced to washing people's feet. So Jesus uses this occasion to help the disciples realize, once again, that in the Kingdom of God, discipleship means that one is willing to serve others rather than insist they serve you.

In a sense, the whole exercise seems designed by Jesus to get those who follow him to see that they don't understand when it comes to following his example. And when we think about it, neither are we. How many stories have I read in the last year about Catholics lashing out against the pope? Or Catholics complaining about who should or should not receive the Body and Blood of Christ and when they can or can't? Some Catholics even complain about one another, or other groups, like LGBT people, especially members of the transgender community. Who among us is taking the time to be of service to them, to wash the feet of those disciples?

Observations like this can come off as shrill and get our defenses up. But as we learn again and again throughout the Triduum, Jesus does not condemn us for our sins. Instead, his ministry brings our shortcomings to the surface so we can see them, and so we can change. There is another way of looking at all of this, something Jesus does not explicitly mention. At this Last Supper, Jesus is preparing to set out on a journey. And the disciples are too, though they do not know it yet. Really this is the beginning of the journey of the rest of their lives. Our journey also, the journey to bring God's message to the world.

Maybe this "washing of feet" is intended not just as a symbol of service but a blessing for them on their way. On Holy Thursday, we are reminded that our fundamental call as Christians is not to get lost with our intra-Church or parish conflicts, but to venture out beyond our pews. A whole world is out there waiting for us, filled with beauty and pain, majesty, and mystery. As disciples, we are meant to wander in its broken places and let it crack open our stony hearts. Perhaps we might even learn how to be a source of life and hope for all.

Tonight, you will have the opportunity to wash the feet of another just as they will have the opportunity to wash yours. You can come forward now and allow this to happen, or you can remain seated and wait for the end.

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