On Holy Thursday evening Bishop Milan will wash the feet of 12 men. He does this in imitation of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples at the Last Supper. As we read in chapter 13 of John’s Gospel account, Jesus explains his action saying, “You call me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.”
In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus announces to his Twelve Apostles that he is going to be condemned to death, tortured, crucified and rise on the third day – pretty heavy stuff.
And what’s going on with the Twelve during this momentous announcement? James and John have been having a little discussion between them and, as a result, ask to be Jesus’ closest companions in the kingdom; the other Apostles take offense. In response to this, Jesus has to leave off his telling of the upcoming passion, death and resurrection to straighten them out.
He admonishes them that the one who would be the greatest is the one who serves the rest; not the one who makes his authority felt by others. He finishes by going back to his original statement about his death and resurrection, noting the example of his life that is to be their way of life, “The Son of Man has not come to be served but to serve – to give his life in ransom for the many.”
There it is; plain and simple. We are all called to serve our fellow human beings, not to expect them to serve us, but to give our life for them. So, how do you serve the people around you? How do you engage in almsgiving, not only during the Great Fast, but throughout the whole year?
Our parish projects are aimed at serving others: the quarterly collection for the poor, the ongoing food collection, the annual shoe box collection which is currently taking place – we’ll have the sorting after Sunday’s Divine Liturgy. It’s a positive sign of how well you members of St. Nicholas Parish understand the necessity of serving others rather than being served. Your help with the sorting will further demonstrate this.
How about acting as individuals other than our parish projects? Do you find other ways to serve people – The elderly, the sick, the homeless, the hungry, the poor?
This final week of the Great Fast provides a good opportunity to refocus on serving others in the various ways you are able to do so.
By renewing your commitment to this service you will be prepared to receive the service of Jesus Christ who, next week, is going up to Jerusalem where he will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, who will condemn him to death and hand him over to the Gentiles; who will mock him and spit at him, flog him and finally kill him.”
Almsgiving – the final component of the Great Fast trilogy of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. To be like Christ is to carry out all three in every day of our lives. We cannot adequately identify with him in the mystery of his death and resurrection next week if we don’t.