Maundy Thursday is associated with a customary practice that is followed in many of the Churches all around the world…
It consists of choosing of twelve persons from the Church – based on various parameters or criteria.
>> These twelve are given the “privilege” to have the feet washed by the Main Celebrant (usually the parish priest) during the Holy Mass.
This is a symbolic remembrance of the “washing of the feet” that Jesus had undertaken on the evening of the Last Supper.
Preaching on this custom, on a Holy Thursday, a priest once spoke the following in his sermon:
“There are twelve of us, who have been chosen from among us, whose feet will be washed this evening.
Perhaps, there were many others also who had a desire that their feet also be washed.
>> Probably, some of you, children, are dreaming of growing up faster in life, so that one day, you too may be chosen to have your feet washed.
But here is a point to be considered…
Most of us probably are thinking only about ‘having our feet washed’.
But I really do wonder, how many of us – be it those who have got a chance or those who have missed – think also of ‘being the one who washes the feet of others?’
We all probably are desiring and wishing only for the chair, to be seated, and have our feet washed.
>> But how many of us also wish and desire for the ‘towel’?”
It was his direct way of telling that there were very few who will to be the last, the least and the lowest in the Church, the Body of Christ.
Am I a person who is willing to lower myself in humility?
Jesus says in today’s Gospel, “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted” (Mt 23: 12)
The 23rd Chapter of the Gospel of St Matthew begins with Jesus turning the attention of His disciples and of the crowds, towards the Scribes and the Pharisees.
Focusing on the religious leaders and on their practices, Jesus launches a volley of critically true statements, a string of their hypocritical misconduct and a barrage of their wicked misdeeds!
The chapter ends with the “Painful Lament” by Jesus over Jerusalem – the city of the Lord!
One of the highlights in this highly volatile and strongly-worded Chapter is the number of times Jesus mentions the two groups of people – “Scribes and Pharisees”
There is, in total, 7 occurrences of the phrase, “Scribes and Pharisees” – a biblical number for totality!
This Chapter is a therefore, a full-blown critique and condemnation of the ways of the Scribes and Pharisees.
Why is Jesus so outright in His condemnation, so merciless in His usage of words and so blatant in His attacks on the Scribes and Pharisees?
(Meanwhile, when we go through these critical attacks of our Blessed Lord on this group, one must always remember the words of Jesus Himself: “I have come not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Lk 5:32)
>>> There was deep pain in the heart of the Lord, in seeing the way religion was being manhandled, misused and misinterpreted by the religious leaders of His time
>>> As the Son of His Beloved Father, it was hurting for the Son to see a section of people, trampling upon God’s precious and venerable truths, and twisting them for their own self-interests and self-agenda
>>> A strong form of condemnation was reserved only to those who were hardened in heart – as a means for them to repent and turn back their ways to the Lord. The method of ‘sharp condemnation’ was reserved only to the proud and the arrogant; never to the poor sinners!)
The reason for Jesus making a scathing attack on the religious authorities of His times, could be summarized into one crucial point: Glorification of one’s own self at the expense of the Glory of God and the Mercy deserving for His people!
Therefore, Jesus goes on to point out the many occasions and circumstances when the Self-Interest of the Pharisees and Scribes took extreme priority over God Himself!
It is this self-centred and self-glorifying act that makes Jesus to tell, “For they preach, but they do not practise!” (Mt 23: 3b)
How easily can this be our own state of affairs, in our life…!
We may be people…
… who “appear” to be very fine and kind – but perhaps, we are persons who find it too hard to let go of our pride, in reaching out to the needy, in humble service!
… who speak a lot on helping others and being generous – but perhaps, we go through grilling moments in lowering ourselves and adopting a lowly status to extend a helping hand!
… who desire happiness in communities and peace at homes – but perhaps, we discover
ourselves to be persons who are unwilling to let go of my ego and allow a listening ear to the views and opinions of others!
The call, today, therefore is…
… ” to work for a cause – not applause
… to live life to express – and not simply to impress!”
Following the Great example of Jesus, may we dare to pick up the “towels” of service and kindness and live a life “clothed in humility!”
God Bless! Live Jesus!