[Before the feast of Passover, Jesus knew that His hour had come
to pass from this world to the Father.
He loved His own in the world and he loved them to the end.
The devil had already induced Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot, to hand Him over.
So, during supper,
fully aware that the Father had put everything into His power
and that He had come from God and was returning to God,
He rose from supper and took off His outer garments.
He took a towel and tied it around His waist.
Then He poured water into a basin
and began to wash the disciples’ feet
and dry them with the towel around His waist.
He came to Simon Peter, who said to Him,
“Master, are you going to wash my feet?”
Jesus answered and said to him,
“What I am doing, you do not understand now,
but you will understand later.”
Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.”
Jesus answered him,
“Unless I wash you, you will have no inheritance with Me.”
Simon Peter said to Him,
“Master, then not only my feet, but my hands and head as well.”
Jesus said to him,
“Whoever has bathed has no need except to have his feet washed, for he is clean all over;
so you are clean, but not all.”
For He knew who would betray Him;
for this reason, He said, “Not all of you are clean.”
So when he had washed their feet
and put His garments back on and reclined at table again,
He said to them, “Do you realize what I have done for you?
You call me ‘teacher’ and ‘master,’ and rightly so, for indeed I am.
If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet,
you ought to wash one another’s feet.
I have given you a model to follow,
so that as I have done for you, you should also do.”] (Jn. 13:1-15)
As we enter into this most sacred time of the Christian year, we join Jesus around the table of His last supper. It is from here that He will ordain the apostles as his first priests. It is from here that He will first feed His people with His Body and Blood. It is from here that He will institute the Eucharist, the memorial of His suffering, death, and resurrection.
On this all important holy night we hear not of the institution of the Eucharist, but rather the washing of the disciples’ feet. While the other three Gospels include those fateful words, “this is My Body, this is My Blood”, St. John focuses on what the Eucharist represents and what It is supposed to do in us. If we receive Jesus’s Body and Blood in the Eucharist then we in turn are to show that same sacrificial love to those around us, even our enemies. (Jesus even washed Judas’s feet.)
The Eucharist, though a sign, is much much more. The Eucharist truly is the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Before washing His disciples’ feet Jesus “took off His outer garments and took a towel and tied it around His waist.” As Jesus divested Himself of His outer garments to wash the feet of the disciples so too did He “divest” Himself of His Divine glory to become man in order to wash us of our sins. Even more in the Eucharist, His glory as the Son of God is hidden. Many times He is unrecognized, appearing to us to be mere bread and wine.
Though Jesus gives His disciples and His people such an incredible gift in the Eucharist, He is deserted and rejected the following day. Unrecognizable as God, He was made unrecognizable even as a man after His scourging. He appeared to be just a ball of bloody flesh, and He was treated as such. Jesus was disrespected though hidden to the human eye was His Divinity and His humanity.
This Holy Thursday night gives us pause for reflection on this great gift of the Eucharist. This is especially true for those of you unable to physically receive His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. Jesus is unrecognized under the forms of bread and wine. He divests Himself of His Divine glory to become food and drink for us, so that we too might give of ourselves for others.
Take some time today and thank God for His gift of the Eucharist. Talk to Him about your frustrations in not being able to receive the Eucharist during this time. Listen to Him as He responds, “I’m still with you. Though physically separated, I still say to you this is My Body and this is My Blood given for you.”