THEME: SERVE WITH LOVE
READINGS: Exodus 12:1-8, 11-14/ 1 Corinthians 11:23-26/ John 13:1-15
At the Last Supper, our Lord Jesus Christ did not only institute the Holy Eucharist and the Ministerial Priesthood, He taught us to serve with love. Thus, according to the gospel reading, Jesus washed the feet of His apostles (John 13:5) to teach them the lesson of service (John 13:12-15); and He did so, because He “loved them to the end” (John 13:1).
Serving with love like Jesus has several characteristics (cf. 1 Cor. 13:4-7). In this homily, however, we wish to limit ourselves to only three characteristics which our Lord demonstrated in the gospel reading: selflessness, humility and mercy.
- SELFLESS SERVICE
To serve without expecting a reward or without an obligation to the beneficiaries is selfless service. Jesus demonstrated this kind of service at the Last Supper. He was not expecting any reward from the apostles when He washed their feet; neither was he obliged to do so. Moreover, the selfless love of Jesus is seen in the fact that He loved the apostles to the end even though He was very much aware that Judas would betray Him, Peter would deny Him and the rest would desert Him. Remember that Jesus did not only call the betrayer, the denier and the deserters as “friends” but He willingly died for them out of great love (cf. John 15:13). Similarly, we should serve with love whether we are disliked or liked, unrewarded or rewarded, etc. In other words, our love for those whom we serve should be like that of Jesus, who came not to be served, but to serve and give His life as a ransom for many (cf. Mark 10:25).
- SERVING WITH HUMILITY
The second virtue which characterizes Christian service is humility. In the gospel reading, Jesus demonstrated service with humility in several ways.
Firstly, from the position of being served at table, Jesus got up from the table to serve the apostles at table (cf. John 13:4). Secondly, Jesus took off the master’s garment and wrapped Himself with the servant’s towel. I see a symbolism here. That is, it was as if Jesus took off the garment of His equality with God and wrapped Himself with the towel of the lower dignity of humans (cf. Phil 2:6-11). Therefore, to serve others with humility like Jesus is to “put aside” our socio-economic status and offer services which are generally deemed as below our “level”, e.g., a medical doctor or CEO who voluntarily cleans the chapel.
- SERVING WITH MERCY
Now consider this: the most sacred and precious hands ever which had just handled the most holy body and blood would wash the dirty feet of the callous man, Judas, as well as the dirty feet of the timid eleven apostles. This is a demonstration of sublime humility combined with mercy.
Consider how we would treat someone we suspect to have betrayed us. Yet, in the case of Jesus who even knew with all certainty that Judas would betray Him, He held his feet and gently washed them. Also, consider how we would treat those who are disloyal to us. Yet, Jesus washed the feet of Peter who would deny Him and the others who would desert Him. Thus, Jesus demonstrated true mercy to His apostles and He teaches us to serve with mercy.
Beloved, as we journey with Jesus in those three days in which His saving mission came to the climax, let us ask for the grace to serve, like Him, with love. As we serve others with selflessness, humility and mercy, may the Lord bless us eternally! Amen!
By Msgr. John Kobina Louis