John 13: 1-15 Cycle A
Tonight is our Passover Feast. Christ is the new Passover. He is the new Moses, the new covenant. He is the Messiah, long expected, who gives us new manna. He is the lamb who sacrifices himself.
In Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist, Bryant Pitre stresses that the Passover is not complete until the Jews eat the lamb. Jesus, an observant Jew, knows this. He is fully aware of what he is doing. He knows who he is; that he is the Messiah, the fulfillment of God’s plan. He is the one who Moses prefigured. John tells us he is: “Fully aware that the Father had put everything into his power.” He knows his disciples must eat the flesh of the lamb, his own flesh, and drink his blood. He fulfills the Jewish Bread of Presence. He changes the Levitical priesthood to the ancient priesthood of Melchizedek, offering bread and wine. On this night He institutes the priesthood.
On this night, knowing all that is to befall him, he is concerned not for himself but for his disciples. The theme of reconciliation runs through these readings. When we eat the body and blood of Christ we are reconciled to God. Our sins are washed away. We become one with God. We become intimate with him. We become divinized.
After giving his body and blood, Christ washes Peter’s feet. He says ‘not just my feet but my hands and head as well.’ Jesus replies: “Whoever has bathed has no need except to have his feet washed for he is clean all over.’ Joseph Ratzinger comments on this scene in his book, Jesus of Nazareth, part two. Ratzinger notes that Jesus is referring to baptism. The bathing is our baptism: ‘clean all over.’ The washing of the feet refers, some say, to the confession of sins, when we acknowledge our particular transgressions against each other. Reconciled with God, we wash each others’ feet. Reconciled to each other, we bring about the Kingdom of God. Think of parents, teachers, coaches, mentors, doctors who have brought healing, encouragement, liberation, joy, the Isaiahian mission, to you. They are presences of Christ.
Tonight Christ gives his continuing presence in his flesh and blood. In the foot washing, we are reconciled to God and to each other. And He institutes the ministerial priesthood which bring us his body and blood. We prepare to wash feet and to receive the body and blood of Christ. We acknowledge his healing, strengthening and consecrating presence in the holy oils we have received. Tonight is one of great consolation for us. By his wounds we are healed.