Once more we are brought back as a church to the night God’s plan to restore us was in its final stages. God’s plan to bridge the separation between himself and us by the sin of Adam was to have the penalty of our sins paid by the One True Lamb who would be sacrificed for all sins, all time, all generations. This evening is all about forgiveness and mercy.
As a church we will gather tonight to witness something we have grown accustomed to on this day; the washing of feet. I can assure you for those involved in this act it is humbling. To have your feet washed by another or to wash the feet of fellow parishioners is very humbling. I have witnessed that emotion up close and personal and have seen tears and a quiet acknowledgement of unworthiness by those having their feet washed.
But this is more than a reenactment of what Jesus did on that night before he died. It is a symbol of what we are to be and who we are to become if we are to call ourselves Christian. Jesus as he completed the task of washing the feet of all his disciples, including Judas and Peter who would deny him later that evening spoke to us. It is those words we need to examine and determine if we are the kind of Christian Christ’s passion and death demands we become. In his own words he said, “Do you realize what I have done for you? You call me ‘teacher’ and ‘master,’ and rightly so, for indeed I am. If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do” (Jn.13:15)
Forgiveness was the only reason for his coming to earth. God set up the entire plan where sin would be forgiven by the sacrifice of a spotless lamb would take away the sins of us all (Lev. 16:20-23). This sacrifice would reconcile us to God. But it is not just a change of address for us. We have not just moved from unrighteousness to righteousness before our God. No there is a demand that we become something different because of his death and resurrection. It demands a response from us to allow the Holy Spirit to complete the plan of God once our sins were taken by Jesus on the cross.
The next step in God’s plan was for the Holy Spirit to be given to us – pouring itself into our lives and changing our hearts so we would become holy. We are to become new creations in Christ because of the loving act of God giving us Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Step one is to understand this sacrifice began with his birth and ends with his death. On this final evening with his disciples he is speaking to them and to us about who we are and what we should be doing because we have been freed from the penalty of sin and death.
We should do for one another what Jesus has done for us. Sounds like a suggestion doesn’t it? Should do this act of forgiveness for one another sounds like we have an option. But we do not because Jesus told us “unless you forgive from your heart your heavenly father will not forgive you” (Mt,18:35). There is no room for us to say they do not deserve forgiveness because of the pain they have caused me.
Forgiveness was freely given to us and we are destined to become like Jesus (Rom.8:29). So even if you are not in church on this Holy Thursday and witnessing this act of washing the feet it does not matter. You are the believer, the one who desires to be in good standing with God, the one who calls yourself Christian or even if you limit your identity to Catholic you must forgive everyone who has caused you pain.
You must forgive those who wounded you so long ago; purposely wounded you or inadvertently wounded you they are to be forgiven by you. You must forgive yourselves for the guild you have heaped upon yourself for your failure that caused someone great harm and even death – spiritual or physical death because of your actions.
This night is a time to let the love of God wash over you and cleans you and you pour that same forgiveness upon those you need to forgive. Then you are ready to receive the next gift of grace from God – salvation without you doing a thing but embracing his desire to restore you by the death of Jesus. We will talk about that tomorrow.