Homily for the Mandatum of Holy Thursday

by Sr. Denise Marie of the Holy Spirit, OP

In the name of the Father + and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit

My dear Sisters, once again we come together to commemorate the Lord’s mandatum, the washing of the disciples feet during His last supper. At this critical moment, at this evening before the terrible suffering of the cross, Jesus does not think of Himself. He thinks about His brethren, loving them all to the end.

In all of this, the Lord was essentially acting out a parable for the disciples because He knew well that actions always speak louder than words. This “parable”, as it were, that we are honored to reenact this afternoon illustrates His whole work on our behalf.

Jesus rose from supper, a place of rest and comfort
The Lord rose from His throne in heaven, also a place of rest and comfort

Jesus laid aside His garments, taking off His covering
The Most High laid aside His glory, casting aside His heavenly covering

Jesus took a towel and girded Himself, being ready to work
The Second Person of the Blessed Trinity descends, taking the form of a servant, ready for toil

Jesus poured water into a basin, ready to clean
Jesus poured out His precious blood to cleanse us from all guilt and penalty of sin

Jesus sat down again after washing the disciples feet
The Lord Jesus - now and forever - sits at the right hand of God His Father and we belong to Him!

Oh, and then there is Peter! Poor Peter, he represents us all. “… Peter said to Him ‘Lord, are You washing my feet?’…..No! You shall never wash my feet!” …..He is perhaps saying…..Lord, I understand what you’re trying to do. You’re trying to teach us something about humility and serving one another. You have often told us this. But, you know, we understand now. Really, there’s no need for you to get down on your hands and knees and do this appallingly humiliating thing!!

“You don’t understand, Peter. There’s no other way to break through your pride except by myself washing your feet. If you don’t let me do this for you, you can have no part of me. I am telling you, unless you allow me to wash you, to die for you, your heart will never be broken open. For the wound of sin is too great.

My Sisters, we must try to “let in” the passion of our Lord; allow ourselves to be enveloped by the Divine Mercy. There is a way we can block it out of our hearts and consciousness. Fr. John Corbett, O.P. muses that, In His sphere of Divine knowledge, the Lord is able to see our future sins, denials and betrayals as if they were present. He has already seen it happen! Nevertheless, the Lord who has seen us at our worst is impossible to surprise and impossible to shock. He already knows all of our betrayals and he will forgive them all if we would but let him!

As we begin this Sacred Triduum, let us say to him, “Lord, let the truth of your passion enter not only a small part of me (not only wash my feet), but let your passion enter my whole being. We see now that only by your wounds can we be healed. May we never despair of your great mercy.