Holy Week is the greatest love story ever told, better than some of my favorites like Titanic, A Walk to Remember, The Notebook, or even Casablanca, my husband’s favorite. When my husband and I participated in the Holy Thursday Mass tonight we were reminded of Christ’s love for us and his great desire to welcome all of us into his kingdom. Watching our priests and deacons remove their outer garments, kneel down and wash the feet of twelve parishioners to commemorate Christ’s washing of the 24 dirty, dusty feet of his apostles gives me goose bumps every year.
On that Last Supper night over two thousand years ago, we were taught so much about love. Although Peter did not want Jesus to wash his feet, for feet were only washed by slaves and no Jew was to wash another’s feet, Jesus just blew all that stuffiness out of the water. By his actions Jesus was telling his apostles how much he loved them and how much he wanted them to love each other and all people. St. Francis said,” Preach the Gospel, and if you have to use words.”
Jesus’ preaching that night was thunderous, but many missed the message of his actions. Jesus offered his followers his body and blood. He asked us to do what he did in memory of him, meaning we are to wash each other’s feet, to act as humble servants. Peter didn’t understand and he denied even knowing Jesus three times. Judas didn’t get that Jesus was asking us to love one another, so he betrayed him. According to Scripture accounts, all of the apostles fell asleep in the Garden of Gethsemane even though Jesus asked them to pray with him for one hour.
It is hard for me to fathom that people who had followed Jesus for three years, walked with him, laughed with him, ate with him, even cried with him were not transformed by his love. People who had witnessed his miracles, listened to his parables, who had observed him hanging with all people, even the outcasts of his time, who themselves had been forgiven on more than one occasion for petty jealousy and competitiveness didn’t understand his message of love. Yet, do we understand Christ’s kind of love.
Although Scripture tells us many stories of Jesus love for his Father and his friends, we as Jesus’ family, one Body in Christ, miss the message. One small example of our spiritual denseness is the fact that although we are able to celebrate the Eucharist daily at Mass, many of us Catholics today don’t even celebrate Mass on Sunday. ( Can we not wake up and pray for even one hour? )
Palm Sunday night my youth group watched the last half hour of the movie The Passion. Then for another half hour they experienced 7 stations of the cross by feeling the sharpness of the thorns, tasting the bitterness of the vinegar, tearing the cloth of divisiveness, and rolling the dice of distractions which keep us from the intimate relationship Jesus desires from us.
They signed their name on a scroll reminding them of Jesus’ call to each of them to love. At another station they nailed a sin to a cross, and finally lit a candle not only to symbolize that Jesus is the light, but also that we are to be the light in our world of darkness. We each wrote a letter to Jesus thanking him for loving us so much and asking him to help us live lives reflective of his love.
It is so humbling to realize how special each of us is in Jesus’ eyes. We have been empowered by God’s love to love. On this, the first day of the Triduum, I am in awe of the magnitude of His love.
Jesus, please help me to love as you did when you accepted the cross for my sins. Amen.