Tag Archives: liberation

The liberating power of washing feet and sharing the Body

Notes for a Holy Thursday homily, in Honduras, translated and edited from Spanish

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

Today, in the Celebration of the Lord’s Supper, only the second reading speaks of the Eucharist. We begin with the retelling of the Paschal Meal.

Jews celebrate, even today, the Passover, the Exodus from the slavery of Egypt, with a sacramental meal. It is not a drama – for them, the Meal is a way of living again the liberation from the Egypt. They recall the mercy of God who heard the cries of the people and intervened to rescue them. The Passover Meal is a way to celebrate the liberating presence of God.

The Last Supper of Lord Jesus was probably a Passover Meal. With his disciples, Jesus celebrated the liberation of the people of Israel from Egypt in the midst of the occupation of Israel by the troops of the Roman Empire. The Passover was a very tense time in the days of Jesus. Recalling their liberation from the Pharaoh, many Jews of his time awaited their liberation from the foreign Roman troops. Some wished to throw them out violently.

Jesus came to liberate his People – but not by killing others but by handing over his life for all. In the Last Supper he gave his disciples his body and blood, under the forms of bread and wine, to show his commitment, his handing over of his life even to death, a death that he would suffer in less than twenty hours. The liberation from slavery, on God’s part, is an act of handing oneself over on behalf of others.

DSC01489But, after the Supper, Jesus gave us an example of his style of liberation. He washes the feet of his disciples.

This too was not theater. It was an act of service, of making himself nothing, of putting himself in the midst of the servants and slaves. In the days of Jesus, only the slaves would wash others’ feet – and those feet were assuredly dirty, from walking on dirt roads and in streets full of dung and refuse.

When he lower ourselves before another person, kneeling at their feet, we recognize that we are not those who are the big guys, the powerful, those who matter. We are the lesser ones, the lesser brothers (and sisters) as Saint Francis of Assisi called his friars. We put the needs of others before our own. We recognize that God wishes a community where there is the connection of love, of tenderness, of mutual support.

Why. Because we have a God who loves us, who has lowered himself, and has handed himself over, even to death, for us.

And doing the same as He does, we can experience true liberation.

 

Enslaved

Take care that you do not forget the Lord,
who brought you out of the land of Egypt,
that house of slavery.
Deuteronomy 6:12

Reading these words of Moses to the people of Israel in today’s first reading, I began to reflect on how God has helped me become free from what prevents me from being fully human – that is, fully living in God’s image.

The people of Israel were freed from real slavery, oppression from a cruel ruler – as may people have been oppressed throughout history and even in our own time.

God also sought to free the people of Israel from those slaveries that came from within themselves: their lack of trust in God, their nostalgia for the comforts of enslavement, their lack of gratitude.

But what has God freed me from in my past? What enslavements is God trying to free me even today.

The self-righteousness of my youth and beyond. The giving over to passions. The looking for approval from others. The noonday devil of sloth. The desire to live an easy, all too comfortable life. Discouragement in the face of mistakes or failures.

The list could go on.

But it helps to remember how God has liberated us from enslavements in the past and still is liberating us.

Then we can respond to God in gratitude, as well as with an openness to the long process of liberation that God wants to work in us.