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Feria Quinta in Cena Domini

Latin Mass 2020  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  7:57
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LESSON: Washing the Betrayer’s feet

St. John loves prologues. After all he begins his entire gospel with one. They sound the note of solemnity, and so as the second half of the gospel begins, the portion scripture scholars call the “Book of Glory”, we are once again treated to a prologue. We are solemnly told that Our Lord’s “hour”, which Our Lord so often referred to in the earlier chapters of the gospel, is now here, the hour for Him to pass from this world to the Father, and so he prepares to give the final proof of His love.
Our Lord rises from the table, girds himself with a towel, and proceeds to wash the feet of the Apostles. However, in his prologue to this Book of Glory, St. John includes, in parenthesis, a note “as if in astonishment”, as St. John Chrysostom describes it. Our Lord is about to wash the feet of the very person who had resolved to betray Him.
Our Lord knows who will betray Him, He has already referred obliquely to Judas as a “devil” all the way back in Chapter Six, at the end of the great Bread of Life Discourse. Nevertheless, he bows down in front of Judas, and performs one of the most humble of acts for this man who had already sold his allegiance for thirty pieces of silver the day before.
Much is made of St. Peter’s refusal to allow Our Lord to wash his feet, and the exchange between them, the rest of the Apostles are merely lumped together in St. John’s retelling, but in washing the feet of his betrayer, Our Lord is nevertheless teaching his Apostles, and of course us, an important lesson of humility.
Certainly, we would all willingly help out a friend in need, but what about an enemy? In washing Judas’ feet, he’s essentially saying, “I love you just as much as I love my closest friends, Peter, James, and John”. Can we say that, can we say that we love our enemies, those who hate us, those who have betrayed us, those who have abused our trust?
Our Lord has given us an example, and he expects us to imitate it, “For I have given you an example, that as I have done to you, so you do also.”

ILLUSTRATION: St. John the Almoner’s charity

St. John the Almoner, also known as St. John the Merciful, was born in 552 in Cyprus, eventually becoming Patriarch of Alexandria. As his name suggests, he was renowned for his almsgiving and works of charity.
In the city of Adrion, a certain rich man had heard of the compassion of St. John for the poor, and wanted to find out for himself if all that he heard were true. So one day he put on tattered garments disguising himself as a beggar and stood on the side of the street through which St. John would have to pass to get to the hospital to minister to the sick as he did several times every week.
When St. John passed by, the phony beggar cried out, “Have pity on me, for I am a wretched man just freed from prison.” St. John turned to his servant and instructed him to give the man six coins. When the rich man had received the money he thanked St. John and departed.
As soon as St. John was out of sight, he changed his garments and ran by another street and again met the saint before he reached the hospital. Using a different tone of voice, he said to him, “Take pity on me, Father, for I am in great destitution.” St. John again turned to his servant and told him to give the man seven pieces of gold. Again, the rich man took the gold and went away.
When he was gone, the servant turned to St. John and said, “My father, you have given alms to that man twice today; it was he who, in the dress of a beggar, met us a few minutes ago.” St. John pretended not to hear what the servant said, and when for the third time the same man came under a different guise asking for alms, the servant said, “It is the same man again, Father; this is the third time he has come today.”
“Give him twelve pieces this time,” replied St. John, “for it may be Jesus Christ Himself who has taken the appearance of this poor man to try me.” The rich man was so impressed by the saint’s patience and charity that he told everyone of his experience, and returned home full of veneration for the saint’s virtue.
Here was a man completely taking advantage of this saint’s charity, but the saint treated him the same as anyone else. That is the kind of humility and charity that Our Lord calls us to imitate.

APPLICATION: Imitating Perfect Charity

Our Lord rose from the supper, girded himself about with a towel, poured water in a basin, and proceeded to wash the feet of the man who had already agreed to betray him. This image, along with that of the Cross itself, shows exactly how much Our Lord loves each one of us, and gives us an example to follow.
Having that level of charity may seem difficult, if not impossible, but not if we follow a few practical steps.
First and foremost, we need to pray, earnestly and daily for the virtues of charity and humility. During our daily time of personal prayer, during our daily rosary, whenever we think of it, praying for the grace of these virtues.
Second, we need to pray for the gift of knowledge in particular. This Gift of the Holy Spirit, is the one which allows us to see the world as God does, which includes seeing others as God does. Through this gift we are able to recognize that everyone we encounter is a beloved child of God and deserving of our charity.
Third, we need to remember that we ourselves are no better than Judas. Every time we sin, particularly mortal sin, we are betraying Our Lord, just as Judas did, and it is only through his grace that we are redeemed and restored to life, unlike Judas. If we keep this in mind, then we will come to realize, that any betrayal of our trust, pales in comparison to the times we have failed God.
As we begin the Sacred Triduum, the three most sacred days of the year, let us pray especially for the grace of true humility and true charity, that we may faithfully obey Our Lord’s command, “as I have done to you, so you do also.”
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