Thursday, April 5, 2018

He humbled himself

MARCH 29, 2018

Jesus, I trust in you!

This year’s celebration of Holy Thursday takes a special significance for me not only because it is the Year of the Clergy and Consecrated Persons but also because I am journeying this year towards my silver jubilee as a priest on November 30, 2018. I think added to this is the wonderful news announced at Chrism Mass this morning that I am retained to my assignment here as Parish priest for the next 3 years.

In the Holy Gospel today, we were told that “Jesus knew that his hour had come to pass from this world to the Father. He loved his own in the world and he loved them to the end…(He) was fully aware that the Father had given everything into his power and that he had come from God and was returning to God.” The Lord Jesus knew who he really is…He is God the Son, the Lord and Master: “You call me Lord and Master and rightly so for indeed I am.” He makes no pretenses about this. He does not deny his greatness in an attitude of false humility. He knew who he was: he is the one to whose power the Father had given everything. And this knowledge of his own greatness makes what he did even so remarkable: “He rose from supper and took off his outer garments. He took a towel and tied it around his waist.” To me, St. Paul gives the appropriate interpretation of what Jesus did: “Though he was in the form of God, Jesus did not deem equality with God, something that was within his grasp. But rather he emptied himself and took the form of a slave, being born in human likeness.” Do you remember the Transfiguration of Jesus? Jesus’ face shone like the sun and his garments because excessively brilliant. This brilliance, this external glory was what Jesus took off at his incarnation. The outer garments which he took off stood for the external glory of his Divinity which Jesus took off when he became man. This is what we call the Kenosis of Jesus. Jesus emptied himself and took the form of a slave, which is our human likeness. That towel which he tied around his waist was the human nature he assumed for himself. He was clad in the garments of a slave. He who is so great, so much like God his Father, humbled himself and became a slave. But the Incarnation was not the end of his humiliation. He humbled himself even further by obediently accepting death on a Cross. He poured water into a basin and washed the feet of his disciples. Feet washing is an act of courtesy shown by Jews to visitors considering the fact that the roads in Israel are either dusty or muddy. However, feet washing is a very menial task. It is an act so low…so demeaning a task that it is never assigned to a Jewish slave on account of his dignity as part of the chosen people of God. And so there he is…God the Son to whom everything has been given by the Father…he now washes the feet of his disciples. He performs the low and menial task of washing our feet. He washes us through the blood and water that will gush out of his wounded side. He gives us the bath of spiritual birth called Baptism and washes our feet with the absolution obtained from the Sacrament of Reconciliation. This is how he shows us his love. He loves us by going down so low as to wash our feet. I remember Florante of the work of Francisco Balagtas. He said: “O pag-ibig kapag ika’y pumasok sa puso nino man, hahamakin ang lahat, masunod ka lamang.” Jesus loved us and in that love, hinamak niya ang lahat, pati ang kanyang sarili.

And so he tells us: “If I, your Lord and Master, washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. I have given you an model to follow so that as I have done for you, you should also do.” With this, we begin to ask ourselves: “Ano ang kaya kong gawin upang maipakita ko ang pag-ibig ko kay Hesus? Hinamak niya ang lahat, maging ang kanyang sarili, upang ipakita niya ang pagmamahal niya sa akin. Ano ang kaya kong hamakin para sa kanya?” What am I willing to do? How low am I willing to go, in order to prove my love for him? The bishop this morning reminded us priests: “that there is no assignment too poor, no task too menial, no service too low for us. We must be willing to bend so low if we are to be who we should be: ministers of Christ. Remember that no servant is greater than his master, no student is greater than his teacher. We are all servants. We go to wherever we are sent. We leave when we are dismissed.”

O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!

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