1) OPENING PRAYER
your Son Jesus reminds us today
that we are no greater than your and our servant,
Jesus, our Lord and master.
Give us the love and endurance
to serve you and people
without waiting for awards or gratitude
and to accept the difficulties and contradictions
which are part of the Christian life
and which are normal for followers
of him who bore the cross for us,
Jesus Christ our Lord.
2) GOSPEL READING - JOHN 13,16-20
Jesus said to his disciples: 'In all truth I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, no messenger is greater than the one who sent him. 'Now that you know this, blessed are you if you behave accordingly. I am not speaking about all of you: I know the ones I have chosen; but what scripture says must be fulfilled: 'He who shares my table takes advantage of me. I tell you this now, before it happens, so that when it does happen you may believe that I am He. In all truth I tell you, whoever welcomes the one I send, welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me, welcomes the one who sent me.'
• Beginning today, April 17th until the 8th of May, every day, except on feast days, the Gospel of each day is taken from the long conversation of Jesus with the disciples during the Last Supper (Jn 13 to 17). In these five chapters which describe the farewell of Jesus, the presence of those three threads of which we had spoken before, is perceived, those threads which knit and compose the Gospel of John: the word of Jesus, the word of the community and the word of the Evangelist who writes the last redaction of the Fourth Gospel. In these chapters, the three threads are intertwined in such a way that the whole is presented as a unique fabric or cloth of a rare beauty and inspiration, where it is difficult to distinguish what is from one and what is from the other, but where everything is the Word of God for us.
• These five chapters present the conversation which Jesus had with his friends, the evening when he was arrested and was put to death. It was a friendly conversation, which remained in the memory of the Beloved Disciple. Jesus seems to want to prolong to the maximum this last encounter, this moment of great intimacy. The same thing happens today. There is conversation and conversation. There is the superficial conversation which uses words and words and reveals the emptiness of the person. And there is the conversation which goes to the depth of the heart and remains in the memory. All of us, once in a while, have these moments of friendly living together, which expand the heart and constitute the force in moments of difficulty. They help to trust and to overcome fear.
• The five verses of today’s Gospel draw two conclusions from the washing of the feet (Jn 13, 1-15). They speak (a) of service as the principal characteristic of the followers of Jesus, and (b) of the identity of Jesus, the revelation of the Father.
• John 13, 16-17: The servant is not greater than his master. Jesus has just finished washing the feet of the disciples. Peter becomes afraid and does not want Jesus to wash his feet. “If I do not wash you, you can have no share with me” (Jn 13, 8). And it is enough to wash the feet; there is no need to wash the rest (Jn 13, 10). The symbolical value of the gesture of the washing of the feet consists in accepting Jesus as Messiah, Servant, who gives himself for others, and to reject a Messiah, glorious king. This gift of self, servant of all is the key to understand the gesture of the washing of the feet. To understand this is the root of the happiness of a person: “Knowing these things, you will be blessed if you put them into practice”. But there were some persons, even among the disciples, who did not accept Jesus, Messiah, Servant. They did not want to be the servants of others. Probably, they wanted a glorious Messiah, King and Judge, according to the official ideology. Jesus says: “I am not speaking about all of you; I know the ones I have chosen; but what Scripture says must be fulfilled: He who shares my table takes advantage of me!” John refers to Judas, whose betrayal will be announced immediately after (Jn 13, 21-30).
• John 13, 18-20: I tell you this now, before it happens, so that you may believe that I AM HE. It was on the occasion of the liberation from Egypt at the foot of Mount Sinai that God revealed his name to Moses: “I am with you!” (Ex 3, 12), “I am who I am” (Ex 3, 14). “I Am” or “I AM” has sent me to you!” (Ex 3, 14). The name Yahweh (Ex 3, 15) expresses the absolute certainty of the liberating presence of God at the side of his people. In many ways and on may occasions this same expression I Am is used by Jesus (Jn 8, 24; 8, 28; 8, 58; Jn 6, 20; 18, 5.8; Mk 14, 62; Lk 22, 70). Jesus is the presence of the liberating face of God in our midst.
4) PERSONAL QUESTIONS
• The servant is not greater than his master. How do I make of my life a permanent service of others?
• Jesus knew how to live together with persons who did not accept him. And I?
5) CONCLUDING PRAYER
I shall sing the faithful love of Yahweh for ever,
from age to age my lips shall declare your constancy,
for you have said: love is built to last for ever,
you have fixed your constancy firm in the heavens. (Sal 89,1-2)