Service is always within a context, never abstract. It occurs in a place, a town, a neighborhood, a family, a Christian community...
Today, Holy Thursday, church tradition reminds us of two very important events, the Last Supper and the washing of feet. Considering the experience of eucharistic communion present in our sharing of the Lord’s Supper, our emphasis today will be on the washing of feet.
Washing a person’s feet was in those times, and we can easily imagine would be today, a task reserved for slaves. It is here where Jesus challenges his disciples to follow him in this fundamental attitude. There are no parables here, no allegories, simply a concrete act linked closely to the Lord’s supper.
John does not tell of the last supper, which is substituted for the washing of feet. This suggests the existence, among believers in a community close to the year 100 of our times, of a communal practice around the Lord’s supper, intrinsically related to service. In other words, this meal could not be an eminently intimate act or solely for the enjoyment of only a few. This supper should be an act of commitment and experience of service. The words of Jesus are imperative, discipleship is defined in and through service.
St John 13: Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.
Considering this reality should help us to live better in these times when our communities cannot come together to share bread and wine, for we can enjoy our spiritual food in the bread of the Word.
Service, as related to discipleship, to some extent makes eucharistic communion visible. Jesus’ symbolical dedication of himself in the Last Supper preannounces what is to happen a moment later in His passion and death. Any dedication of service thus involves giving of oneself, and denotes utmost love.
In times of pandemic service can take on different facets: there are those whose job involves caring for the health and welfare of others, there are those who by caring for themselves seek to care for others. But all of us, wherever we are, will signal the truth of the Lord’s Supper, dedicated love, giving of ourselves to the utmost, as a response to the instruction to discover in the face of our neighbor, with or without a mask, the presence of Christ.
I want to
invite you to think about your service, to ponder on what other realities you
can serve, how your service can be expressed eloquently, as a testimony, in the
call to live like our master, washing each other’s feet.
So be it.