We have also posted
"First Impressions" reflections for all of Holy Week - 2019:
Jesus’ life is on the line. On this night he will be
arrested, tortured and, by the next day, executed. He knows his end
is coming; the signs of hostility by the religious and secular
powers are quite obvious. So, what options would he have in the face
of such threats and impending doom? He could run away to protect his
life and plan to return later when things have calmed down. I
wonder, as he looked around the table at his hapless disciples, if
Jesus was tempted to wonder if all he was trying to accomplish was
fruitless. Was it worth his sacrifice? If he decides to stay, as
today’s gospel says he has, what one, lasting and life-altering
thing could he do for them? Giving his life, his complete surrender
of himself for them, would certainly show them how much God loved
them. That sacrifice would come the next day. As for tonight, his
last meal with them, what could he do to firmly impress on them the
meaning of his life and their roles as his disciples?
At the table, the night before he died, Jesus
performs a symbolic act that summarizes his whole life. He does what
the lowest servant, or slave in the household, would do. He kneels
and washes his disciples’ feet. His message is clear: he has not
come to assume a place of power in the world, but to serve and give
his life for all.
In one powerful ritual Jesus encapsulated his whole
life’s message for his disciples. While they traveled with him the
disciples had seen the loving ways Jesus accepted as his as his
sisters and brothers, the sick, poor, the fragile and the outsider.
If the disciples had taken to heart Jesus’ ways throughout his
ministry, they would not have been shocked, as Peter was, by his
washing their feet. After all, in one way or another, he was always
bending to wash the feet of others.
In the humble act of washing their feet he gave them
and us a powerful message of how we are to live our Christian lives.
His question to those with him and to us as well is, "Do you realize
what I have done for you?" Do we?
At this Eucharist we might give thanks for those
light-bearing Christians whose lives have been deeply touched by
Jesus’ example. They have given witness to "the towel and the basin"
ministry of foot washing. Immediate names come to mind: Mother
Teresa, Oscar Romero and Dorothy Day. I also have a postcard size
photograph of Pope Francis on Holy Thursday at a youth detention
center in Rome. The pope is kneeling before a teenage boy, kissing
the feet he has just washed. Sitting nearby is a young woman
watching the Pope, her hands covering her mouth in amazement at what
the Pope is doing. (See a video by typing in your search engine:
"Pope Francis washes the feet of prisoners.")
The sacramental foot washing is not just for
prominent Christians in the world. It should not be a rare, or
startling event. Each of us who comes to this table of the Lord this
evening, is called to do what Jesus has done and teaches us to do.
It turns out that foot washing is not such a rare
happening, reserved to a few prominent Christians. Have you noticed
it being performed all around you? A father spends energy and
countless hours tutoring and caring for his autistic son; members of
the St. Vincent de Paul Society in our parish spend their free time
every week gathering and giving food and clothing to the poor;
hospice workers sit with the dying; teachers counsel troubled youth
after school hours, etc. There are so many examples of people who
have been deeply affected by Jesus’ life and example and have
devoted themselves to service of the poor, sick, dying, children,
aged, prisoners, refugees etc. Jesus always wanted to help the needy
and distressed in his life and his example at the table before his
death taught his disciples that they must do the same, if they are
to be his followers.
"Foot-washing ministry" can be quite exhausting and
even discouraging. It is a humble service that doesn’t always yield
large and satisfying results. What will keep us at it when the signs
of "success" aren’t evident? At these times we need to remember that
God is the source of our calling. Through Jesus’ life, death and
resurrection God’s Spirit empowers and encourages us to "keep on
Around this table this evening we remember and
celebrate what God has done for us in Jesus. The bread and cup we
share fills us with wonder and gratitude to our God. Initially, like
the disciples, we may not understand, or fully accept, Jesus’
example for us. But as we keep gathering, celebrating and
remembering, the full meaning of his life and message will unfold
Peter and those closest to Jesus may have wanted to
do the right thing – be courageous and stand with him – but they
could not. On their own they were neither brave nor strong enough.
Could we do any better than they? On our own, – no. But on this
night and each time we come to the Lord’s table we are strengthened
by Word and Sacrament. He does it again for us, faltering and
fearful disciples. He enables us to overcome our fears, hesitancy,
prejudice, cowardice and sinfulness to more fully embrace our
mission to wash the feet of Jesus’ least significant sisters and
brothers. In the blessed and broken bread of his body and the
blessed and communion cup of his blood, Jesus gives his whole self
to us at this table.
When Jesus took bread and wine, blessed and gave
them to his disciples he gave them the instruction, "Do this in
remembrance of me." John further opens our imagination in his supper
narrative to help us understand what "this" means. What are we to do
in memory of him? Gather and share the Eucharistic meal he left us,
for sure. But at the meal the "this" also includes being attentive
to his word, doing what he taught us.
Around the table were broken and weak people, one of
whom was a betrayer. We remember that God is with us amid human
wreckage. The Eucharist keeps us connected to Christ and one
another. We also remember that God is no stranger to pain and
betrayal. But sin, brokenness and betrayal do not have the last word
because we believe and hope in the resurrection. Until then, the
shared bread and wine and the community sustain us and strengthen us
to be disciples of "the towel and the basin."
here for a link to this Sunday’s readings:
Lenten penance may be more effective if
we fail in our resolutions than if we succeed,
for its purpose is not to confirm us in our sense of
virtue but to bring home to us our radical need of
----Mark Searle, "Assembly," vol.
8, no. 3
Mini-reflections on the Sunday scripture readings
designed for persons on the run. "Faith Book" is also brief enough
to be posted in the Sunday parish bulletins people take home.
From today’s Gospel reading:
I, therefore, the master and teacher,
washed your feet,
ought to was one another’s feet."
Celebrating Eucharist is our time to remember who we
were and who we are now because of what God has done for us. If we
attend Mass regularly people refer to us as "practicing Catholics."
It’s not just a matter of believing, but expressing our belief in
actions – the kind of action Jesus shows up today – washing the feet
of our sisters and brothers.
So we ask ourselves:
What humble task of service is Jesus asking of
How willing am I to respond? If not, what’s
holding me back?
POSTCARDS TO DEATH ROW INMATES
"One has to strongly
affirm that condemnation to the death penalty is an inhuman measure
that humiliates personal dignity, in whatever form it is carried
Inmates on death row are the most forgotten people
in the prison system. Each week I post in this space several
inmates’ names and addresses. I invite you to write a postcard to
one or more of them to let them know we have not forgotten them. If
you like, tell them you heard about them through North Carolina’s,
"People of Faith Against the Death Penalty." If the inmate responds
you might consider becoming pen pals.
Please write to:
Charles Bond #0036850 (On death row since
Thomas Larry #0233526 (4/28/95)
Darrell C.Woods #0497100 (5/22/95)
----Central Prison, 4285 Mail Service Center,
Raleigh, NC 27699-4285
For more information on the Catholic position on the
death penalty go to the Catholic Mobilizing Network:
Also, check the interfaith page for People of Faith
Against the Death Penalty:
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If you are a preacher, lead a Lectionary-based
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Dominicales," as well as articles, book reviews, daily homilies
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4. "First Impressions" is a service to
preachers and those wishing to prepare for Sunday worship. It is
sponsored by the Dominican Friars. If you would like "First
Impressions" sent weekly to a friend, send a note to fr. John
Boll, OP at the above email address.
you and blessings on your preaching,
fr. Jude Siciliano, O.P.
St. Albert the
Great Priory of Texas
Vince Hagan Drive
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