Sunday, May 12, 2019

Holy Thursday: A Life of Serving the Lord is a Life well spent

April 18, 2019

Jesus, I trust in you!

Holy Thursday this year means a lot to me as I am currently celebrating my silver jubilee year as a priest. The anniversary of the institution of the Eucharist and the Priesthood during the Year of the Youth gives me the occasion to go back to the day of my ordination as a priest. I was 25 years old then, with more hair and with greater idealism. I remember that afternoon of November 30, 1993 in the Manila Cathedral when the deacon called my name. At that time, I answered: “Ad sum! Present!” I was called and so I answered: “Here I am, Lord! I come to do your will.” So inflamed was I with the love of God that I was willing to say “Yes” to every question Cardinal Sin asked me. Maybe, at that time, I did not know better. Maybe I did not realize the cost of these “yeses.” All I knew at that time was that I wanted to serve. I wanted to offer God my life. And true enough, I have offered the best part of my life to God. I have spent my youth in his service. I am now 50 years old and I am feeling that my body is slowing down. There are many priestly tasks that I used to do easily but now, I experience certain limitations. But whenever I look back to the day of my ordination, I smile and say to the Lord: “Lord, I offered to you the best years of my life and I want to serve you until the end.”

The Lord Jesus was 33 years old at that time. He was at the prime of his life, the prime of his youth. He must have seen himself in that 1 year old lamb that was sacrificed on the eve of the Passover. That year old lamb has experienced a life independent of its mother only for 10 months and now, it is chosen to be sacrificed to the Lord and to be eaten in the Passover meal. We pity the lamb for it was not even allowed to live a full life. But what accounts for fullness of life? Is it the number of years? The lamb of sacrifice teaches us that life is full not because it was spent for many years but because it was offered to the Lord. Although it is very young, the chosen Lamb lived a full life because it was offered in sacrifice to the Lord. We may have spent many years but if none of them were offered to God, it would have been an unfortunate wasted life.

And this is how Jesus spent his life. Last Palm Sunday, Jesus declared to his disciples: “I am among you as the one who serves.” And tonight, he shows us what he meant: he took off his garments, wrapped his waist with a towel, and began washing the feet of his disciples. It was the most menial task. It was a task assigned to the lowest of slaves. And yet, he insisted to do it…even with the protest of Simon Peter. It simply had to be done. “He took the form of a slave and was born in our human likeness.” Jesus teaches us that this is life well spent. It is spent as an offering to God. It is spent in service of others. He challenges the world which teaches us to live lives with a sense of entitlement. He says: “I did not come to be served but to serve and to give my life as a ransom for many.”

This is the mark of those who wish to follow Jesus: “the kings of the gentiles lord it over them and those in authority over them are addressed as benefactors. But among you it shall not be so. Let the greatest among you be as the youngest, and the leader as the servant…I am among you as the one who serves…” Dear brothers and sisters, let us allow Jesus to lead us to a meaningful life: a life of giving more than receiving, a life of serving more than entitlement. “I, your Lord and Master, washed your feet. You must also wash each other’s feet.”

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

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