(Exodus 12:1-8.11-14; I Corinthians 11:23-26; John 13:1-15)
Tomorrow evening Jewish families will gather in their homes to celebrate Passover. Many will eat the traditional foods and have their children ask the four famous questions leading to a retelling of Israel’s liberation from slavery in Egypt. Such a supper comprises the context of today’s gospel.
Although it is taken in the customary way, Jesus gives the meal a new significance for his followers. It is to commemorate not just Israel’s release from forced servitude but humanity’s deliverance from spiritual bondage. By identifying the bread that is blessed, broken, and shared with his body and the wine which is likewise blessed and drunk with his blood, Jesus points to his imminent death and resurrection as humanity’s emancipation from sin.
What proof do we have that this liberation has taken place? This is a legitimate question in the face of widespread maliciousness, even among Christians. It should not be answered by invoking the cover of a “mystery of faith.” We see ample evidence of liberation in the saints who through two millennia have happily followed Jesus’ example of washing the feet of others. That is, they did not literally pour water over the feet of the needy, but they patiently cared for their well-being. Such a person died in Dallas just a week ago. Fr. Matt Robinson would graciously assist all callers at the door and, until his religious community installed voice mail, the telephone. He was always available for confession and for the last half of his life worked tirelessly for the unborn.