Mass of the Lord’s Supper
It was Easter Sunday, and as usual the church was full. And just as usual, the only open seats were in the front. Five minutes before the Mass was to begin, the door opened and a homeless man shuffled in. It took him a while to walk down the aisle. He walked in wearing on his back all his earthly possessions. Even though the morning was warm he was wearing a heavy jacket, and it was obvious to all he passed that he had been sweating in it all winter long.
As he passed by each row, the people sitting on the aisle refused to make eye contact with the man, just in case he was thinking of sitting next to them. As he passed there arose the murmur of low voices as people began commenting on his presence there. Slowly he shuffled up to the front row and sat down. The people sitting on his right and his left slowly shifted in their seats, giving him plenty of space.
Suddenly, one of the ushers, and elderly man who had served in that role at that parish for over twenty years, walked slowly down the aisle, his eyes on the homeless man. You could hear the whispered comments. “Jerry will take care of this guy. He’ll get him out of here.” Jerry genuflected to the altar and then sat down right next to the homeless man. He turned to smile at him and then sat there quietly, not speaking to him throughout the entire Mass. He just sat there as if it were any other Sunday and he was sitting with his friend.
Small gestures mean something. Small actions or inactions can make all the difference.
“Whoever has bathed has no need except to have his feet washed, for he is clean all over.” Jesus knew the power of small gestures. Jesus chose to prepare himself for his baptism of suffering and death by sharing a last Passover meal with his friends. He knew that not only he but they would suffer terribly the next few hours. He knew that they would suffer the pain of thinking their dreams and their hopes had died with Jesus. They would suffer the anguish of uncertainty and guilt as they abandoned him. And Jesus knew that eventually they would all suffer for their discipleship and most of them would die for it.
He knew that he had to prepare them for their suffering just as he was preparing for his. And so he used the simple gesture of washing their feet to symbolize the role they were to play. Jesus wanted his disciples to begin their journey of discipleship with clean feet. “Whoever has bathed has no need except to have his feet washed, for he is clean all over.”
Our feet carry us on our journey through life, and sometimes they get dirtied by our sins and mistakes. Not all of us is dirty, and we do not have to remain soiled forever. We need to clean up some parts of our lives from time to time. Whoever has bathed in the waters of baptism only need to keep their feet clean, for otherwise they are clean all over.
But Jesus didn’t want the apostles to wash their own feet. He wanted them to wash each other’s feet. He took the first step to prepare them for their journeys. But he also knew that their feet would eventually get dirty again and would need to be cleaned. He gave them the job to keep each other clean.
He has given us the same job. We are to also help each other stay clean throughout our journeys to the Father. It is a humbling job, both for those who wash and for those who are being washed. Sometimes those feet need a good scrubbing and other times we just need someone to sit with us quietly and validate our dignity. Either way, we are all journeying on this road together, aware that our road can be filled with danger, fear, and anxiety. Like Jesus, after we leave this supper we will go out into the night, into the darkness. Tonight there will be no words of dismissal. We will not be called to go forth in the peace of Christ to love and serve one another. We will just leave. Into the quiet of the night. To prepare.