Cycle B Maundy Thursday

 Exo. 12:1-8, 11-14; 1 Cor. 11:23-6; Jn. 13:1-15

Maundy Thursday commemorates the institution of the Holy Eucharist, Establishment of the Sacrament of Priesthood and the greatest example of washing the feet.

Today's Reading from the Gospel of John told us that during the Last Supper, Jesus did something very unusual. He got on His knees and washed the feet of His disciples. What tremendous humility we see in this act of Divine love. The greatest Teacher of all times humbled Himself as a servant of His children. He wanted to do something special by which He would be remembered.

When Peter protested against Jesus washing his feet, Jesus told him, "You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand." And when Jesus had finished washing the feet of the disciples, He said to them, "Do you know what I have done to

you? You call me Teacher and lord - and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.”

We find in history that many great men have imitated this example of Jesus in different ways. A   touching incident from history that exemplifies the great humility of a leader is the story of Mahatma Gandhi washing the feet of untouchables.

In 1933, during a time of heightened tensions and societal divisions in India, Gandhi undertook a significant act of humility and solidarity with the oppressed. The caste system was deeply ingrained in Indian society, and in an effort to challenge the oppressive caste system and promote the dignity of all individuals, Gandhi decided to perform the traditional act of washing the feet of untouchables. This act, known as "bhangi seva" or "safai karmachari seva," symbolized the breaking down of social barriers and the recognition of the inherent worth and equality of all human beings.

Another example of a similar act is seen in the life of Emperor Akbar, who ruled the Mughal Empire in India during the 16th century. He was renowned for his wisdom, tolerance, and progressive policies. Despite his exalted status as a powerful ruler, Akbar was known for his humility and empathy towards his subjects.

One day, as Emperor Akbar was taking a leisurely stroll through the streets of his capital city, he noticed a pair of worn-out shoes left by the roadside. Curious, Akbar inquired about the owner of the shoes and learned that they belonged to a poor common man who earned his living through hard labor.

Feeling a sense of compassion and solidarity with his subjects, Akbar decided to take action. He ordered his attendants to find the owner of the shoes and bring him to the royal court.

When the humble man arrived, he was overwhelmed with trepidation at the prospect of standing before the emperor. However, much to his surprise, Akbar did not reprimand or scold him. Instead, the emperor knelt down before the man and began to polish his shoes with his own hands.

The courtiers and attendants were astounded by this display of humility from their revered emperor. Akbar's actions spoke volumes about his empathy and concern for the well-being of his people, regardless of their social status.

Through this simple yet profound act, Emperor Akbar conveyed a powerful message to his subjects: that true greatness lies not in the trappings of wealth and power, but in acts of humility, compassion, and service to others.

The virtue of humility transcends time and culture, a virtue that holds the power to transform lives and communities. In a world often consumed by self-promotion and ego, humility stands as a beacon of light, guiding us towards authentic greatness and profound connection with others.

In washing the feet of his disciples, Jesus shattered societal norms and exemplified a radical form of humility. He taught us that true greatness lies not in the pursuit of power or recognition but in the willingness to serve others selflessly. As he declared in Matthew 23:11-12, "The greatest among you will be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted."

Throughout his life, Jesus embodied the spirit of humility in various ways. Consider his interactions with the marginalized and outcast—the lepers, the tax collectors, the sinners. Despite his divine status, Jesus never hesitated to extend compassion and grace to those society deemed unworthy. He saw beyond outward appearances and recognized the inherent dignity and worth of every individual.

To continue His mission on the earth Jesus instituted the Sacrament of Priesthood, and to continue his presence on the earth He instituted the Sacrament of the Eucharist.

The dignity of priesthood is a sacred mantle passed down through generations, a calling marked by devotion and service. In the Old Testament, we see profound examples of this honor. From Aaron, the first high priest, ordained by God Himself, to Melchizedek, who blessed Abraham, their roles exemplify the sanctity of the priesthood. These figures served as intermediaries between humanity and the divine, offering guidance, sacrifices, and blessings. Their unwavering commitment to spiritual duty teaches us the profound significance of priesthood, reminding us of the divine calling to uplift, guide, and serve our communities with dignity and reverence.

In the New Testament the priesthood serves as a vital continuation of Jesus' mission on earth, carrying forward his teachings, ministry, and love to future generations. As representatives of Christ, priests are called to embody his compassion, humility, and selflessness in their service to others. Through the sacraments, particularly the Eucharist and reconciliation, priests facilitate encounters with the divine, offering spiritual nourishment and healing to the faithful. They stand as mediators between God and humanity, guiding souls on their journey of faith and offering support and guidance in times of joy and sorrow. In a world often plagued by division and uncertainty, the priesthood provides a beacon of hope and a reminder of God's enduring presence among us. Let us honour and support our priests as they continue Jesus' mission of love, reconciliation, and salvation, bringing light into the darkness and offering solace to all who seek it.

This sacred privilege bestowed upon the priesthood is unparalleled, even among the angels. While angels are messengers of God and serve him faithfully, they do not have the power to consecrate the Eucharist. This extraordinary right to bear Jesus on their hands in the form of the Eucharist is a profound responsibility entrusted to priests alone. This unique role highlights the dignity and sanctity of the priesthood.

An example of great self-sacrifice by a priest in contemporary history is the story of Fr. Jacques Hamel. Fr. Hamel was a French Catholic priest who was tragically killed in 2016 during a terrorist attack on his church in St. √Čtienne-du-Rouvray, France.

During morning Holy Mass, two attackers stormed into the church, wielding knives, and took several hostages, including Fr. Hamel. Despite the danger, Fr. Hamel remained steadfast in his faith and commitment to his congregation. He refused to abandon his parishioners, even in the face of imminent danger.

Reports from witnesses indicate that Fr. Hamel courageously tried to calm the situation and protect his parishioners. Tragically, he was fatally stabbed by the attackers while he was celebrating Holy Mass. His selfless act of sacrifice, giving his life to protect his flock, exemplifies the highest ideals of priesthood and serves as a testament to his unwavering devotion to his faith and community.

Each act of kindness, each word of encouragement, each gesture of love has the potential to transform lives and bring healing to those in need. As we go forth from this sacred gathering, let us carry with us the message of Jesus' compassion and love, allowing it to permeate every aspect of our lives.

As we journey forward, let us remember the words of St. Teresa of Calcutta: "Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier." The celebration of Holy Week reminds us that we should be vessels of God's love in a world in need of healing and redemption.

Satish