Prayer to the Holy Spirit
The four verses of today’s Gospel lie between Jesus’ washing the feet of all twelve disciples and Judas washing his hands of the whole business and his heading out to betray Jesus … Jesus has invited them all to reflect or incarnate Him as those who will be sent as He has been. Judas is not sent, but desires no part of washing feet or his being sent.
Could we propose that this “washing” is a symbol for us of Baptism by which the Disciples enter into more than a company, but into a Body. This Body of Jesus is taking new life, a new form. As Jesus is the One Who is Sent, so those who have had their feet washed, now are meant to be sent as Jesus. Whoever then is sent and received, receives Jesus and also receives the One Who sent Him. In John’s Gospel the word “sent” emphasizes the image of Jesus as a gift and dramatically as a “Servant” who washes creation as a gesture of God’s creational love.
In this time of Baptism we consider pointedly what Jesus is telling His newly-forming Body. I offer my contemplative offering of His last words to, now, the eleven.
“I have washed your feet, because I want you to know Who I am for you. I want you to know also who you are for Me. Now pay attention. These are my sacramental words. You are now, not your own any more. You are now ours. I have washed your feet, because they walk on the earth as I have and I have been “ours” since the shepherds and kings came for me. I have been so since the sick, blind and needy came. The One Who sent Me, did so to claim and bless all that belongs to the Sender and constantly calls to be, not the Owner, but the Creating Sender.
Jesus continues, “I have washed you from your being dominated by your being your own, your own property, your own destiny. As I am sent to you, I am sending Myself with you to constantly bring creation to awareness of who and what it all is. I do know that Judas was too much of himself to become “ours” and he is rejecting his identity and his true dignity. You too will all be tempted, but I will always be finding, washing and re-sending you. You are now My Body, taken, blessed, broken and distributed in the wonderful act of Love Who is the One Who sent Me and sends you.”
To His words, perhaps the Disciples may have said, “Me, ha?” In last-Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus claimed us all as close to Him as the sheep are close to the shepherd. Next Sunday we will hear that we are as close as the branch is to the vine. We, His followers may find it easier to believe in Him and the One who sent Him, than all that He says about us in words images and actions. As we believers walk into church to receive the liturgy of the Eucharist, we need to be aware of what we are doing as we dip our fingers into the, yup, baptismal font and all that this washing is and means. We belong to His Body, we belong to each other and we belong to His creative mission of loving this world and all who belong as well. Even me?
-Larry Gillwick, S.J.