Year C Maundy Thursday

Ex. 12:1-8, 11-14; 1 Cor. 11:23-26; Jn. 13:1-15

We are celebrating Holy Thursday. This Feast solemnly commemorates the institution of the Holy Eucharist and the sacrament of holy orders. But what remains vivid in the mind of the Christians and non-Christians is Jesus washing of the feet of his disciples.

The Old Testament references (Genesis 18:419:224:3243:24Judges 19:211 Samuel 25:412 Samuel 11:8Song of Solomon 5:3Psalms 58:10) show that the washing of the feet was the first act on entering the tent or house after a journey. The Orientals wore only sandals, and this washing was refreshing as well as cleanly. In the case of ordinary people, the host furnished the water, and the guests washed their own feet, but in the richer houses, the washing was done by a slave. It was looked upon as the lowliest of all services (1 Samuel 25:41).
Jesus performed for His disciples this lowliest service. But the disciples could not comprehend the meaning of Jesus action. They were familiar with power struggle and warfare. For them a leader was one who exerted his power.
Warfare appears frequently in the Old Testament and represents a special category of violence. The account of Israel’s conquest of Canaan and the order to put residents of the land under the ban (to “utterly destroy” them) was a much celebrated story among the Israelites. In response to the violent acts of foreign nations, however, the prophets in turn used rhetoric that may seem to encourage or promote violence. Like the Prophets, the Psalms display violence both in descriptions of actions by powerful oppressors and in the speech of those who call on God to bring vengeance on those oppressors.
Violence was part of the contemporary history. The disciples and contemporaries of Jesus were well aware of the practice and violence in the Roman Empire. Many were killed by their own siblings or cousins in the pursuit of power. Every Ptolemy son or daughter had their own entourage, their treasuries, their own sources of power, but killed each other with impunity and regularity. 
Against this background of violence Jesus teaches his disciples a new lesson. A lesson of Humility. He teaches them that power is not to be associated with violence but with integrity. His act of humility actually cleansed their hearts of selfish ambition, killed their pride, and taught them the lesson of love.
Our world is not different from that of the Disciples. We are living in a war torn society. The media concentrates on crimes and atrocities. There is great struggle everywhere to establish ones supremacy. Nations try to exert their supremacy by amassing by weapons capable of massive destruction. Some try to gain economic supremacy. Some try their power in the sea and space. In a different degree it is reflected among societies and individuals. Even it has found its way to the family. Father and mother try to prove who earns more, who knows more, who is more popular and who is more capable. In this struggle to establish themselves they forget values of humility, they miss the joy of surrendering before the loved ones, and they fail to enjoy little things of life.
The message of Jesus lesson of love is not familiar to our society and our children. It should begin to radiate from every Christian family. We should be humble to accept the ideas of others, to appreciate the actions of our children, to encourage the initiatives of our comrades and to recognize the potential of our subordinates.
The symbolic act of Jesus washing the feet of His disciples has been followed as a great lesson by the whole world for centuries after Jesus because it was the sum total of his teaching. The Kings commanded people to be part of the triumphal processions but people flocked of their to be part of Jesus triumphal procession on Palm Sunday. When the kings took care to dress in the best, People took of their best clothes to spread before Jesus. When the kings exhibited their booty, the crowds placed everything before Jesus. So in every sense the life of Jesus was a great success, as a leader and as a teacher. Now on this Holy Thursday Jesus commands us to follow him literally and be true leaders of His church.
Bessie Stanley wrote the following verse as what constitutes success.
He has achieved success who has lived well,
laughed often and loved much;
who has gained the respect of intelligent men
and the love of little children;
who has filled his niche and accomplished his task;
who has left the world better than he found it,
whether by an improved poppy, a perfect poem, or a rescued soul;
who has never lacked appreciation of earth’s beauty
or failed to express it;
who has always looked for the best in others
and given them the best he had;
whose life was an inspiration;
whose memory a benediction.
May Jesus help us to make our life an inspiration and our memory a benediction.