Thursday of tthe Lord’s Supper

Scripture Readings: Ex 1: 1-8, 11-14; I Cor 11: 23-26; Jn 13: 1-15.

Do you realize what I have done for you?  This is a question that stops us in our tracks.  It seems to call for a reflective back tracking, an inventory of gifts received which has to be careful not to leave out something.  The answer we give discloses where we really are.  What we have been noticing, attending to, where our real attention is.  It reveals the world we are actually living in.  And maybe we have been too busy to realize what I have done for you.  We are as apt as anyone to get caught up in the world of getting and spending, while we lay waste our powers.  We are always playing catch up in a world always five steps ahead of us.  The world of having and using and disposing.  We lose the very capacity to realize.  To be present where we are, responding to the subtle impact of reality around us, to the possibility that God might dwell in our neighborhood.

I am always cut by the scene in Thornton Wilder’s play Our Town when Emily, who has died in childbirth, asks to return to earth to observe one of her previous birthdays.  She finally cries out: “It goes so fast.  We don’t have time to look at one another.  Let’s look at one another.   All that was going on and we never noticed.  Do any human being realize life while they live it? “The stage manager says: “No.  That’s the way it was to be alive.  To move about in a cloud of ignorance, to go up and down trampling on the feelings of those about you.  To spend and waste time as though you had a million years.  To be always at the mercy of one self-centered passion or another.  Ignorance and blindness.”

Jesus’ question is a very personal one.  I and you.  He does not ask us for our theology of atonement, not for abstractions or generalities or excuses.  He pulls the drapes of concealment and self-preoccupation aside.  He loved his own in the world and he loved them to the end.  Do you realize what I have done for you? 

Maybe the challenge of the question is itself a gift, opening our eyes to what we would otherwise miss. Have we experienced moments when the presence and touch of Christ has been freeing? An inner sense of living from his spirit?  A connection of our life with that movement of having come from God and returning to God?  Of realizing that we were already encompassed by God before we first became aware of it?  Recognizing and realizing this communion is something like looking for Morell mushrooms in the woods.  They are hard to see, but once you recognize one you begin to see them all over the place.  Once we being to realize how Christ encounters us in life, we begin to see him all over the place.  Christ in Plays in Ten Thousand Places.

We often don’t realize what he has done and is doing for us because he is not what we expected, he is not doing what we expected.  He washes our feet.  Our feet are the most unpresentable part of us.  Limited use (for walking and standing); pretty ugly.  No unique artistry or skills.  Lowest part of our bodies.  But our feet are what connects us to the earth.  We find Jesus washing our feet.  That part of us which is most unpresentable, least unique or special, least distinguishing.  We don’t expect to find him there engaged in a very intimate service to us.  There, where he is demonstrating in full visibility his identification with us. The washer and the washed become one in the act of washing.  Where do we end and does Christ begin? Where does our body end and Christ’s body begin?  Do we realize what he has done for us?

It is no great leap to understand the intimate connection between the foot washing and the eucharist.  Our sharing in the eucharist is Christ’s washing and purifying our lives until we come to the full realization of our union with him and one another. You do not understand now.  It still escapes us. When we realize what he is doing, we will understand that we cannot act otherwise than the model and example he is for us.  We are slow to walk with the ease and self-forgetfulness that the humility of Christ brings to life in those who realize and recognize him.  We will only realize what he has done when we find our selves acting as he did.  It is a knowing that comes from doing the same things.  This is my body, given for you.