The Power of the Washing of the Feet and of the Shared Meal

April 6, 2023 – Mass of the Lord’s Last Supper and Washing of Feet

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Power is an ability to influence, to create and transform. It can be either positive or negative. When power is expressed as a positive force via affirmation, then, power builds respect. When is expressed through love, then, power transforms into service and giving of oneself. However, when power is expressed as a negative force, it leads to coercion, manipulation, abuse, exploitation and even to death

Each of us is a bundle of energy, of power. We possess power as long as we live with others because power can only exist and be exercised in the context of community. Hence, power is entirely about relationship because power is an exercise of influence, which can be realized only in the context of community.

We remind ourselves that it is also in the context of our relationships that we discover who we are, our talents and capacities, strengths and potentials, as well as our weaknesses and limitations. It is in the community that we also understand ourselves the “I am.” I am – is the uniqueness of the person whatever his or her status in life. Our person regardless of our social standing, sexual orientation, age, educational attainment or role in the family or community, is called by the Lord to share in God’s fullness of life, living in a community. Our person also is gifted with THINKING, FEELING, and ACTING. These are forms of power which can be expressed positively or negatively within our community

Our thinking, feeling and acting can, indeed, influence others. Through thinking we create ideas, we make plans and decisions. Through feeling or emotions, our thinking and acting can be influenced. Our feeling may dictate our thinking and in the process also affect our actions. Through our actions we initiate movements that may directly and indirectly affect our environment, which include the people around us.

Thus, when we become anxious of ourselves and less aware and knowledgeable of who we are, there is a tendency of insecurity. Insecurity leads us to compensations, which means that what is lacking in us, we try to compensate in other forms. For example, a child who is abused physically or verbally at home, may tend to be a bully at school to exercise dominance. Or a person who is deprived of things, like food, toys, and clothes at home may tend to become a hoarder later on. The person will try to collect and possess more, to feel some sense of security. While trying to satisfy himself/herself, the person may in turn deprive others too.

These are expressions of power that are also being unfolded as we begin the Paschal Triduum of Christ beginning today and will culminate in the Resurrection of Christ. Yet, for now, what I want to focus more is on how power in its positive and negative forms give influence to people and transform us. It is good then, that we become aware on how the power of Satan suppresses life and how the Power of God gives life.

Let us look first at the power of Satan and on how it controls and brings death. The Gospel of John clearly tells us that the devil had already induced Judas, to hand Jesus over (John 13:2). In the same Gospel, it was also described that as soon as Judas took the morsel, Satan entered him (John 13:27). The intentions of the heart and actions of Judas were already leaning towards the evil spirit, hence, it was easy for Satan to get hold of Judas and bring him deeper into darkness and sin. This was how the devil influenced the mind, decisions and actions of Judas.

Judas must have thought that his desires and longings will be fulfilled through these actions and decisions of him. Yet, he was wrong. He was controlled and manipulated. He was not himself anymore. Judas was in total darkness. Satan was controlling him, perhaps, even without fully realizing that the evil spirit was already manipulating him farther away from the grace and light of Jesus and closer to darkness and death. This led him to his pitiful death. This is how the power of Satan controls us and brings us farther away from the grace of God.

However, let us also not forget how Jesus turned upside down this terrible event. Even though that happened to Judas, but Jesus turned that night of betrayal and pain through the power of love and mercy.

This was described to us as Jesus assumed the humble position of washing the feet of his disciples. It was power expressed through service and humility. Jesus tells us that being a person with power as an authority figure or leader is not about controlling others or manipulating others.

As Jesus washed the feet of his disciples, he gives a model of a life-giving way of expressing power and that is through service and love. This tells us too that the power of being a Christian is having the capacity to serve and love without pretention, without manipulation and that does not count the cost. Christian Discipleship is indeed a form of power, a life-giving power.

This call and invitation to exercise power as a Christian Disciple applies to all, regardless of our age, gender and sexual orientation, social status, educational attainment or state in life. Indeed, to be a disciple of Christ is to give life just as Jesus gives his life for us. And this is the true expression of power which is sacramentally given to us through the shared meal on that Last Supper of Jesus. This is what we powerfully remember today.

It cannot be denied that at the Last Supper of Jesus, his Body and Blood were given also to a disciple, a friend and a companion who betrayed him on that night. Yes, even Judas was in that meal. He too received the body and blood of Jesus even though he was not in the “state of grace.” Jesus gave and offered his body and blood for Judas and for us who are also potential Judases[1] today. This is the power of forgiveness, the power of unconditional love, the power self-giving. This is the power of God.

As we enter into the Paschal Triduum, let us also allow the power of serving, of loving, of caring and of compassion to be the very power we express in our relationships, in our roles and leadership, and in our life through our thinking, feeling and acting. Let the power of God transform any forms of control, manipulation, and abuse into life and into love. Kabay pa.

[1] In the words of Bishop Pablo David, DD, Bishop of Kalookan.


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