Jesus Took a Towel

This year at my parish.

This is an updated reflection from last year. We change with God’s grace.

In Old English, Maundy Thursday means mandate and Jesus most certainly gives us a mandate to love another as I have loved you – John 13:34. This is why we call Holy Thursday, Maundy Thursday.

All day yesterday I was thinking, reflecting and praying through the Triduum. More specifically on the resurrection; what it means to me, for my Dad now passed on, the mystery of it all and the salvation that’s available to all mankind.

We often see the paschal mystery as separate events, but in God there is no time and space, it’s one event and even in celebration it’s one long liturgy. But remember, there is no resurrection without the cross. Oh sometimes how we wish it were so.

Tonight at mass, I was particularly moved by the foot washing ritual and the empty tabernacle. It took me back to my second mission trip to Peru in 2008, when another missionary and I went to several homes where we served by providing in home spa treatments. Something I did once again last summer.

In 2008 we washed their feet, clipped their toe nails, clipped their finger nails, shaved their faces, cut their hair, swept their floors and cleaned their homes.

That day my missionary friend and I had no idea what we were going off to do until we got in the car and were told. When we arrived, I remember feeling completely unprepared and unequipped. I cannot speak for my friend, only myself, but I had no clue what I was doing. Truly. I’m not even sure I’d consider myself a disciple back then. I may have looked like one to the average Joe, but God knew I needed so much more training.

I remember thinking, what if I cut the man and he bleeds while I’m shaving him? It had been a long time since his last shave and I was using a very dull, disposable razor. What if I clip his fragile toe nails too short and they crack and cause pain or worse – bleed. His feet showed years of dusty roads in flip flops and the difficult life of poverty.

My first time shaving

Mind you, we were in Piura, Peru and it’s very poor. I’m talking dirt floor poor and we weren’t provided the best or sharpest tools. However, the man was at peace and in a place of total surrender to me, the one the Father sent to serve him that day. He received it all much like a sponge. He soaked it up and completely absorbed the moment. I remember thinking, give love and be love…all will be well. It’s God who provides and equips. Love one another as I love you Jesus tells us in scripture.

I now wonder did that man see Jesus at his feet?

I never thought of how humbling it must have been for that one gentleman who rarely got out of bed to be served in that way. To invite us into his home. Total strangers. His elderly wife took care of him without the help of anyone else day in and out. We stopped back later, as he wanted sit up for awhile, so we told his wife we’d be back to help her get him back in bed. To out amazement the wife got him back into bed by herself! God always provides and equips. Love one another as I have loved you… is that not the instructions to us all?

Who knew seven years later I’d be shaving my dad’s face, clipping his finger and toe nails, giving him foot massages with lotion and essential oils of frankincense and myrrh during his dying of lung cancer while on hospice. Two of the gifts given for the new born King – baby Jesus. Seven the number completeness or divine perfection. God provides and equips. His instructions are clear and providential. 

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My dad just like the old man in Peru loved it. Humbled, I’m sure. He received with an open heart and absorbed every hand stroke repeating how good it felt as he oohed and aahed. He constantly told the nurse “my daughter will do that, she gives the best foot massages.” Again, I remembered – give love and be love… all will be well. God provides and equips. Love one another, as I have loved you Jesus told His disciples.

I often thought my dad had the tougher role and place, but did he? I’m sure there was much of him that had to die to allow me, his daughter to care for him the way I did. I watched his own passion, as death neared day after day. Slowly watching the body he used and gave up to serve his family slowly break down & die.

My dad was hard working, proud, generous, and sacrificial. He wasn’t one to be served, but to serve others, but the passion humbles you. I wonder how many passions he endured in order to serve us the way he did all those years. I can look back and see Jesus in him. I now wonder did my dad see Jesus in me at his feet, his daughter – his own flesh and blood? I never told Him that I learned to love and serve from him, as he so faithfully and selflessly served his bride and family for 49 years till his body gave out. He did it without notice. I’m absolutely grateful I told him, Thank you for it all; the love, service, and sacrifice.

Discipleship means serving the other in Christ’s name, not your own or anyone else’s name. It’s giving God’s love away freely with no attachments, unconditional love will only do. No expectation of anything in return. Being compelled by love. Once again, to love one another, as I have loved you. To lay your life down for a friend. To pick up a towel and wash.

That’s what Jesus teaches us in the washing of the feet.

There’s no easier or greater instruction than that, yet we complicate it all even the disciples show us that when they question Jesus during the foot washing.

Although, the washing of the feet ritual appears different from ancient times mostly because in those days they wore sandals and the roads were dusty. I’m sure their feet were banged up and mangled just like my friend in Peru. But is it really different?

Being a disciple means to serve those we are comfortable with and those who make us uncomfortable. To serve when it’s easy, but also when it’s really hard. Yet, but before one truly becomes a disciple they must humble themselves to receive.

You see discipleship also means receiving the gift of faith through Christ Jesus and all that He wants to give you. Being completely aware of what you’ve already been given in the paschal mystery even when you know you are unworthy and undeserving of His awesome love, gifts, and power. Undeserving of His sacrifice. Ultimately all that He’s already bestowed on you and all of humanity. Yet, still God continues to pour out more. In fact, God never stops pouring out Himself for us all.

Paul says in 2 Timothy 4-6 “For I am already being poured out like a libation, and the time of my departure is at hand.” Libation means a drink poured out as an offering to a deity. Are you willing to pour out your life like those early apostles did? 

“As for me, I am already being poured out as a libation, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. From now on there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” 2 Timothy 4:6-8

Ask yourself this Triduum what will you pour out in Christ’s name? What towel are you being called to pick up? Who’s feet does Jesus want you to wash?

Are you willing to give your whole self as He did on the cross? What needs to die for you this passion to serve the Kingdom? What is your oblation or offering? What are you willing to sacrifice in His name? 

There is always more God wants to give you, to offer you. Will you humble yourself to receive Christ Jesus this Easter and all He desires to give to you?

Are you open to receiving Him fresh and anew this Easter? It requires less of you.

He sacrificed Himself for YOU… will you receive His sacrifice, and His love.

Jesus poured himself out like a libation and finished the race. How will you finish the race we call life?

Much to think about as you go and venerate the cross tonight.

“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!” -Hunter S. Thompson

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July 2008 Piura Peru

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