It is Holy Thursday, the night we celebrate the Chrism Mass. Tonight, churches around the entire globe will wait in prayerful vigil, with lights dimmed, all images covered with the congregation in respectful, somber silence. The Church is remembering the end of Jesus’s public life as a teacher and healer and walking with Him as He begins His most important work, the work of salvation in His passion, death, and resurrection.
During the Passover supper with His disciples, Jesus becomes fully aware that the Father had put everything in his power and he has come from God and was returning to God. What does He do with this awareness of His power? Act like a king, like the God He actually is? No, He assumes the role of servant and takes off his outer garments, puts a towel and ties it around his waist and begins to wash the disciples’ feet and dry them with the towel around his waist.
Peter could not handle this; his first impulse is to refuse such a humble action and said to Jesus, “You will never wash my feet.” But Jesus answered him, “Unless I wash you, you will have no inheritance with me.” Embracing Christ as saviour means embracing a humble attitude because only the humble realize they need to be saved.
It is quite telling that the professional religious of His day, the scribes, and Pharisees, become enraged at Christ’s proclamations about who He was. They are so full of pride and their own sense of self-importance that they cannot imagine God is humble, not grasping for power. They are enraged at the beginning of His ministry and even more so at the end of His public life. Indeed enraged enough to become the catalyst which propels the events which culminate in the crucifixion of Christ.
Why? Why are they so upset, angry? They are full of themselves as experts on God, so full of pride that they cannot humble themselves enough to recognize the presence of God in their midst. They secretly are intent on playing the role of God themselves by saving themselves with their knowledge and religious exercises. In fact, they do not think they need a saviour at all because they are pure in their own eyes.
As Jesus reminds us in the Gospels, only the sick need a physician, only a sinner needs a saviour. Only the humble person can even acknowledge his weakness, his sin, his need for salvation. Only the humble can open their eyes long enough to see reality and to ask for help, accept help, accept Divine intervention in their lives.
Where Do I Stand on Holy Thursday?
So the question that naturally arises on this night, on the eve of Christ’s death, is where do I stand?
Do I stand among the righteous, pure, self-sufficient ones or do I stand with the poor in spirit, those captive to their woundedness, and oppressed in the face of their innate sinfulness?
Do I need saved and am I humble enough to ask for help?
If I can’t, then Jesus died in vain, the power of his crucifixion is wasted on me and I will be unable to rejoice on Easter Sunday. I will not rise with Him into the fullness of new life, a life hidden in Christ. I pray that I might rejoice and repeat the words of today’s psalm, “Forever I will sing the goodness of the Lord. “