the moment you do not know what I am doing, but later you will understand." We
have just heard Jesus saying these words to Simon Peter, who had questioned
what Jesus was doing to his disciples. "Lord, are you going to wash my feet?"
The Bible is full of people who ask God why and how. Think of Mary at the
Annunciation, "How can this be?" or of Moses before the burning bush, "What
shall I say?"
the Exodus, the Israelites kept complaining against Aaron and Moses. "Why did
you bring us out of Egypt to this place, where there is no food and water?" At
the time they did not know what God was doing, but later, in the Promised Land,
they looked back and understood. They celebrated the Passover to show that they
understood God's plan. Understanding brought with it repentance and
At the Last Supper, the disciples did not
know what Jesus was doing. What did he mean when he said, "This is my body,"
and "This cup is the new covenant in my blood," when all they could see and
taste was bread and wine? Then this talk about a Paraclete, who would remind
them of what Jesus had told them and lead them into all truth. And now at the
end of the meal here was Jesus washing their feet and telling them to follow
his example. What could this mean?
Judas, Pilate, Caiaphas, the Jews, the
Romans, the Pharisees, the soldiers and the crowd, all those involved in the
drama of the Passion and Death of Jesus, what could they possibly have known at
the time? Jesus alone knew that his hour had come. Only later did they
understand, beginning surprisingly enough with the good thief, who said,
"Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom". Then it was the soldier
who first declared, "Truly this was the Son of God".
Only after the Resurrection did the
disciples begin to understand, and they weren't easily convinced. At Pentecost
their eyes were opened to the meaning of Jesus' life. Finally they understood
that he was Lord and Christ, God-with-us. And this understanding led them to
repentance and thanksgiving. This is why we still celebrate Holy Week and
Easter, why we celebrate the sacraments and come to church. Christians have
come to understand the meaning and purpose of the Incarnation.
celebration reminds us eloquently that it is not enough simply to understand,
to come to Mass and give thanks, wonderful as that is. No, Christ wants us to
follow his example. He wants us to show how perfect our love is. He wants us to
serve others with humility and charity. He wants us to sacrifice our lives for
others and not count the cost. We, of course, understand all this, but have we
the courage to do what Jesus asks? Have you ever thought what the world would
be like if we Christians were just to follow the example of Jesus? Mind you, if
you do take up your cross every day and follow him, don't be surprised if in
the end they crucify you.
have given you an example so that you may copy what I have done to you." Lord,
give me faith, hope and love. Give me courage too, to follow your example and
with you lay down my life in service for others and for the salvation of the