This evening’s liturgy begins the Easter Triduum, and Our Lord begins by bestowing three gifts on us: the Eucharist, the ministerial priesthood, and the commandment to love one another. This evening’s Gospel recalls when Jesus began the Last Supper washing his disciples’ feet, a menial chore usually reserved for a servant. When Peter balks, Jesus warns him that if he doesn’t accept this humble service, he’d be disinherited; Our Lord would deny him something he wanted to give him. Jesus’ gesture is even more poignant considered that he washes Judas’s feet as well.
In the Last Supper Our Lord institutes the Eucharist, celebrating it for the first time, and commanding his Apostles to celebrate in memory of him. In this supper Our Lord makes the apostles able to consecrate the Eucharist and offer it in Christ’s name and person on behalf of the Church, and they would hand this down to their successors, the bishops, and priests who worked with them. If washing the disciples’ feet was a menial gesture, imagine Our Lord being food and drink for us, standing vigil, at times alone, in tabernacles throughout the world, eager to be with his faithful through Holy Communion. In his actions Our Lord invites not just the ministerial priests of his Church, but all believers, to love one another as he has loved them. For a priest that translates into service, whether serving saints or sinners. Part of Peter’s inheritance this night was to receive the teaching of humility and service: if the Master should do such a menial chore out of love, his disciples should not consider themselves exempt.
The faithful who have not received Holy Orders are not exempt either; loving one another often means swallowing your pride and not putting limits or conditions on your self-giving, just as Our Lord didn’t. Let’s begin this Easter Triduum in gratitude for our priests and bishops, for the Eucharist, and resolved to reap the fruits of the forty days of Lent that have concluded to truly grow in our love for one another.
Readings: Exodus 12:1–8, 11–14; Psalm 116:12–13, 15–16c, 17–18; 1 Corinthians 11:23–26; John 13:1–15. See also Holy Thursday, Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper.