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
When Jesus had washed the disciples' feet, he said to them: "Amen, amen, I say to you, no slave is greater than his master nor any messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you understand this, blessed are you if you do it. I am not speaking of all of you. I know those whom I have chosen. But so that the Scripture might be fulfilled, The one who ate my food has raised his heel against me. From now on I am telling you before it happens, so that when it happens you may believe that I AM. Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me."
• Beginning today, every day for several weeks, 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 which we had spoken before is seen. Those threads 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 with 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 on the evening when He was arrested and put to death. It was a friendly conversation, which remained in the memory of the beloved disciple. Jesus seems to want to prolong this last encounter, this moment of great intimacy. The same thing happens today. There is conversation and more conversation. There is the superficial conversation which uses many 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 strength in moments of difficulty. They help us 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) the identity of Jesus as 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). It is enough to wash the feet; there is no need to wash the rest (Jn 13:10). The symbolic 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 as glorious king. This gift of self, servant of all, is the key to understanding 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 people, even among the disciples, who did not accept Jesus in this role. They did not want to be the servants of others. They likely 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 afterward (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 Amis 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, nor any messenger greater than the one who sent him. This is an ultimate statement of humility. As a messenger of the Gospel in the world, do I take credit for my abilities and gifts which come from God and claim them as my own, rather than crediting them to God?
• Jesus knew how to live together with people who did not accept Him. Do I?
• How can I make of my life a permanent service to others?
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 forever,
You have fixed Your constancy firm in the heavens. (Sal 89:1-2)