"At 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?" 

Throughout 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 thanksgiving.

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.

Tonight's 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.

"I 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 world. Amen