Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper
John 13: 1-15
Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself.
Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus answered, “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!”
Jesus said to him, “One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you.” For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, “Not all of you are clean.” After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, 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.
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved (http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations)
Now Go and Do Likewise
I used to wonder why so many Protestant Churches called this day “Maundy Thursday.” I would often see it on the display boards outside some churches and it seemed like such an odd name for one of the days in Holy Week. After studying some Latin, I learned that Maundy came from the opening words of the Mass for this day, Mandatum novum do vobis, “I give to you a new commandment.” These are the words that Jesus says to his disciples after washing the disciples’ feet. I suppose that Mandatum morphed into “Maunde” in Middle-English and the rest is history.
The Mandatum, the great commandment that we wash one another’s feet, is such a powerful theme to this day. Back in Jesus’ time washing feet was a task for a lowly servant (lower than Daisy for Downton Abbey fans). You were pretty low on the totem pole if you had to wash a traveler’s feet. You can only imagine the reaction of Jesus’ disciples when they saw Him grab a towel and basin and begin this humble chore. I often wonder though, are we as startled when we see this done today?
Ritual can be both beautiful and romanticized. Since we all wear shoes and take regular showers, washing feet has long gone out of fashion. Some of us may view this Mandatum, or command, as a sentimental reenactment of the past. But the command that we serve one another should still hit us as forcefully as it did those disciples in the upper room. We recently learned that Pope Francis will celebrate today’s Mass, where feet are washed, in a juvenile prison. A prison is a far cry from Saint Peter’s Basilica. This certainly took many of us by surprise, but when you think about it, wasn’t this what Jesus wanted us to do when he said, “Now go and do likewise”?
—Fr. Timothy Kesicki, SJ, Provincial of the Chicago-Detroit Province
Lord, we are in awe of your love for us. Help us to place our feet before you and to receive your cleansing so we can walk by your side. And fill us with your grace so we can be the first to kneel before others and wash their feet.
—The Jesuit Prayer Team