Sermon: Great Vigil of Easter

“To be ignorant of what occurred before you were born is to remain always a child. For what is the worth of human life, unless it is woven into the life of our ancestors by the records of history?” – Cicero

This is the night we remember how our lives are woven into the lives of our ancestors.

So what makes this night special? To discover the answer we must go far back into the history of God’s people. Just prior to the Exodus from Egypt and the Israelites captivity there, you will remember the ten plagues. The tenth was the death of the first born. The Israelites were told to sacrifice a lamb and to take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and lentil of their house so that when Death came, it would pass over their houses. The Israelites did as the Lord commanded and lived. This is the night that we remember how God caused Death to pass over the Israelites.

God commanded the Israelites to commemorate this night each year with a seven day celebration. The Mishnah is a book of Jewish Law dating back to around the year 200 and it outlines how the laws and holidays are to be observed, including the seder meal, which is eaten on this night in Passover. As part of the ritual, the youngest child is assigned the role of asking some very specific questions, which provides the father with the opportunity to retell the Exodus story. The first question given for the child to ask is, “Why is this night different from all other nights?” and the father proceeds by answering, “This is the night…,”and tells the history of the Israelites salvation.

As a Christian people, we have taken that same idea as the pattern for this night for the telling – in the words of Paul Harvey – “the rest of the story.” For telling how Jesus brought salvation to all through his death and resurrection.

Therefore for us…

This is the night the faithful people of God gather. We come to light a fire in the darkness, to kindle a flame that reveals the content of every shadow, and to light a candle that represents the light of Christ returning from the shadow of death and into the light.

This is the night that we hear God’s holy word as it proclaims to us how he has saved his people throughout history, how he parted the sea so that his people might be saved from their enemy, how he has made an everlasting covenant with his people and proclaims that we will be His people and He will be our God.

This is the night when we renew our Baptismal Covenant, reaffirming the means by which God saved us. As St. Paul writes to the Romans, ”Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life”

This is the night that we celebrate the great Eucharistic feast to receive the food of our salvation.

This is the night when we begin the great fifty days of Easter leading up to the giving of God’s Holy Spirit on Pentecost.

This night is considered the Queen of Feasts and it is the night that we prepare for the great celebration of Easter, the resurrection of our Lord.

Why is this night different from all other nights? This is the night that Jesus conquered death once and for all and it is the Eve of our Salvation. As the Psalmist declares, “This is the Lord’s doing and it is marvelous in our sight.”

Sermon: Good Friday

“O great Creator of heaven, true God and true Man, that you should be reduced to this extreme state! At the time of your birth, you scarcely had the poorest rags to cover yourself, and now, at death you have lost all your clothing! Previously a narrow manger held an infant’s tender body, now stripped of all your goods there is no place in this world, which you have created, for you to rest your head except on the Cross. You came into this world as one poor and in need and you now desire to leave it naked and as an outcast. At your birth your body was tightly wrapped in swaddling clothes, now at death that body is pierced by nails and a lance.” From On the Passion of Christ by Thomas à Kempis.

One of those movies that sticks with you came out in 1998, Saving Private Ryan. If you haven’t seen it, I’ll tell you that it is brilliant, but pretty tough to watch.

Private James Francis Ryan is one of four brothers who took part in the military operations, including the invasion of Normandy, during World War II. During the opening days of that offensive, all three of Private Ryan’s brothers are killed and it is the intent of the military to insure that he is extracted from the fighting. They are not willing to allow all four sons of a family to be killed.

The mission is assigned to Army Ranger Captain John Miller, played by Tom Hanks, and his squad. In the end of the movie, after much horrible fighting, Private Ryan is still alive, but the squad is wiped out and Captain Miller is wounded and dying. Captain Miller speaks his dying words to Private Ryan, “James, earn this… earn this.” Earn this. Live a life worthy of the sacrifice that has been made for you.

Now, I will tell you that this is really bad theology. That said: from the manger to the cross, Jesus has sacrificed himself for you. He gave up heaven to become a child. He gave up eternity to be present to you. He gave up sinlessness to take on your sin. You know the sacrifice of Jesus and you know what he endured for you on the cross. Earn this. Earn it. Live a life worthy of his sacrifice. No. You can’t really earn it – it is grace, it is the free gift of God – but you can live a life as though you could.

St. Josemaría Escrivá writes, “You owe such a great debt to your Father—God! He has given you life, intelligence, will… He has given you his grace: the Holy Spirit; Jesus, in the Sacred Host; divine sonship; the Blessed Virgin, the Mother of God and our Mother. He has given you the possibility of taking part in the Holy Mass; and he grants you forgiveness for your sins. He forgives you so many times! He has given you countless gifts, some of them quite extraordinary… Tell me, my son: how have you corresponded so far to this generosity? How are you corresponding now?”

You owe such a great debt that you can never repay, but you can try. Earn it.

Let us pray: Gracious Father, let meditating on Jesus Christ and Him crucified be our daily prayer.  Keep Your Son always before our eyes and keep us ever near the foot of His Cross.  Whether in life or in death, allow us to enter the tomb with Jesus so that when He, Who is our life, shall appear again, we will rise with Him in glory.  Amen.

Sermon: Maundy Thursday

It is told that Alexander the Great and a small company of soldiers approached a strongly fortified walled city. Alexander, standing outside the walls, raised his voice and demanded to see the king. when the king arrived, Alexander insisted that the king surrender the city and its inhabitants to Alexander and his little band of fighting men. The king laughed, “Why should I surrender to you? You can’t do us any harm!” But Alexander offered to give the king a demonstration. He ordered his men to line up single file and start marching. He marched them straight toward a sheer cliff. The townspeople gathered on the wall and watched in shocked silence as, one by one, Alexander’s soldiers marched without hesitation right off the cliff to their deaths! After ten soldiers died, Alexander ordered the rest of the men to return to his side. The townspeople and the king immediately surrendered to Alexander the Great. They realized that if a few men were actually willing to commit suicide at the command of this dynamic leader, then nothing could stop his eventual victory.

It is told that the abbot of a monastery took a dead stick and stuck it in the ground, then turning to a monk named John he told him to tend the stick as though it was alive. For the next year John tilled the soil around the stick, kept it weeded, and without exception brought water up twice a day and watered the dead stick.

There is a word that many of us are not so fond of because in most cases it means that we have a superior who commands us. That word is “obedience.” Although we may not like it, we will be obedient for a variety of reasons: fear, loyalty, ideals, and so on. There are various persons who can call us to obedience, but we know that God is most certainly at the head of the list.

Think of Jesus’ first miracle, the wedding at Cana. Jesus’ public ministry has not yet begun, but when the wedding party runs out of wine, Mary – Jesus mother – turns to him and says, “They have no more wine.” “Woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.” And of course it was the finest of wines.

Yet when Mary said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you,” she was not just speaking to them. We know that she also speaks to us and we are given commands by Jesus that we must follow. Being obedient and following these commands is where Maundy Thursday gets its name. From the Old French we have the word mandé which is something commanded and from the Latin mandatum which also means commandment, and Mandatum is the first word of verse 34 that we read today, “Mandātum novum dō vōbīs… A new commandment I give unto you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”

Jesus demonstrates to us how we are to be obedient to this command by serving one another, by loving one another, by taking the lowest position, the position of a slave and washing each other’s feet. As a Christian people, are you prepared to be obedient to this new commandment? If yes, then how far are you willing to go in being obedient? No, I’m not asking you to go jump off a cliff as Alexander’s men did, but like Jesus, would you be obedient? Watering a dead stick might seem silly to the world, but if Jesus asks you to look silly in order to be obedient, will you follow? Would you kneel in front of a stranger and wash their feet? These are the things Jesus calls us to be obedient to, but not out of fear or loyalty or some great idealism, but out of love. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”

Sermon: Christmas Eve

Little Johnny is told by his mother that he has been very bad this year. Thus, he would probably not get anything for Christmas.

“What? Nothing for Christmas?” cried Johnny.

“Well,” said mom, “maybe if you write a letter to baby Jesus and tell him how sorry you are, Santa will bring you some presents.”

Little Johnny returned to his room and began his letter. With each attempt at writing he would first apologize and then promise to be good for a certain amount of time. Each letter he crumpled-up, and then started again, making the “be good” time shorter with each letter.

Just as he was about to give up in frustration, he was suddenly struck by a bolt of inspiration! Running to the living room he carefully removed the little Virgin Mary figurine from the family’s manger scene, carefully wrapped it in a sock, and placed it in his top dresser drawer. Returning to his desk, he took out a clean piece of paper and began to write: “Dear Baby Jesus, if you ever want to see your Mother again….”

There was a very interesting article that came out in the December issue of National Geographic (I was actually quite amazed to see it!): “How the Virgin Mary Became the World’s Most Powerful Woman.” She fell out of favor with the more protestant leaning churches following the Reformation in the 16th century, but she holds a special place in the hearts of literally billions of people. She is seen as a point of access to God and a means to grace.

At the Annunciation the Angel of the Lord came to her and said, “And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David.” Mary’s response set the stage for the turning point in our relationship with Our Heavenly Father. She said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”

Soon afterwards, Mary would go and visit her cousin Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, and upon her arrival, Elizabeth declared, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”

Today, we find Mary in the manger giving birth to the Son of God. The star was shining, the angels were rejoicing, the shepherds came worshiping and told what they had heard from the angels, and Mary, we are told, “treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.” That means she took all that she knew from the time before the Annunciation, to the words the angel spoke to her then, to the declaration her cousin Elizabeth had made, to what the shepherds had shared with her that night, and tried to understand what it all meant.

So my question for you this evening is this: Have you? All of these events, combined with what we know from Holy Scripture about the life of Jesus—his teachings, the miracles, his death and resurrection—provide a basis for our faith. So, like Mary, have you treasured and pondered these words and events in your heart?

And everybody responds, “Well, Fr. John, we wouldn’t be here if we hadn’t!” But the reason I ask is because of something Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote: “For those who are great and powerful in this world, there are two places where their courage fails them, which terrify them to the very depths of their souls, and which they dearly avoid, these are the manger and the cross of Jesus Christ.” Why? Because in these two place, more than any other place in time, things happen.

Speaking specifically of the manger and the text we read tonight, Bonhoeffer wrote, “This text speaks of the birth of a child not the revolutionary deed of a strong man or the breath-taking discovery of a sage or the pious deed of a saint. It truly boggles the mind: the birth of a child is to bring about the great transformation of all things, is to bring salvation, and redemption to all of humanity. As if to shame the most powerful human efforts and achievements a child is placed in the center of world history, a child born of humans, a son given by God. This is the mystery of the redemption of the world, all that is past and all that is to come is encompassed here.”

I ask you if, like Mary, you have treasured and pondered these words and events in your heart, because many are afraid to do so. Why? Because one of two things will happen in your life when you do. One, you will reject it and remain as you are. Or, two, you will treasure and ponder these words and events in your heart and be transformed.

Mary is the Mother of God, but it was Meister Eckhart, a German theologian and mystic, who said, “We are all meant to be mothers of God, for God is always needing to be born.” To be transformed by the Word of God is to have God born in you and for some that that can be a terrifying prospect. One of the greatest understatements in all of Holy Scripture is when the Apostle Paul wrote, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God,” because God will not leave you unchanged. He declares, “Behold, I am making all things new,” and what He desires to make new more than anything else is you.

So when that fear of transformation, of being made new, sets in, then hear the words of the angel, Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all people: to you is born this day in – your very soul – a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.

Allow the Star of the Christ Child to rise above you. Allow your heart to be set as His manger. Allow the Son of God to be born in you. And allow Him to transform you into His image and His glory.

Sermon: Great Vigil

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Not a sermon, but a sermonette…

One of my favorite stories of the Desert Fathers – those men who lived in the deserts of North Africa during the 300s and dedicated their lives to God – tells of the time Abba Lot went to see Abba Joseph and said to him, ‘Abba as far as I can I say my little office, I fast a little, I pray and meditate, I live in peace and as far as I can, I purify my thoughts. What else can I do?’ then the old man stood up and stretched his hands towards heaven. His fingers became like ten lamps of fire and he said to him, ‘If you will, you can become all flame.’ You can become all flame.

“The light of Christ.” Those were the words I chanted this evening as the Paschal candle was processed in. Robert Alden, a minister in the Congregational Church, wrote, “There is not enough darkness in all the world to put out the light of even one small candle.” However, this evening, we did not leave this work of defeating the darkness to just one candle. As the candle was processed up the aisle, you each lit your own candle, further pushing out the darkness.

Those flames of our candles represent to us the light of Christ that burns in each one of us, demonstrating that as we go about the work of Christ, we begin to spread that flame to the world around us. We become instruments of His grace in a world that desperately needs it. Therefore, we must guard and nurture the flame that within us. We must care for it, seeing to it that it is not allowed diminish or flicker out.

Little Jane had listened to a sermon on “Let Your Light Shine.” The only part she remembered was the text, but she didn’t understand what it meant until her mother explained in terms she could understand, “It means being good, obedient, and cheerful.” In the afternoon there was trouble in the nursery, and Jane excused herself for being naughty by saying, “I’ve blowed myself out.”

Don’t blow yourself out and don’t let the world around you suffocate the light that is within you. Instead become all flame and set the world on fire.

Sermon: Holy Saturday

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Bishop Jack Nicholls, the Bishop of Sheffield, once asked a sixth grade girl where she thought Jesus was between Good Friday and Easter. She replied, after she had thought a little, ‘I think he was in deepest hell looking for his friend Judas.’ Something to think about, but where is Jesus in this present darkness? Where might we seek him?

He is dead. “He did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped. He emptied himself freely accepting death on a cross.” So where is Jesus? You know the words of the Creed: “He suffered under Pontius Pilate, crucified, dead, and was buried, he descended into hell….” That’s why this Church seems so strangely empty. The one for whom it was built, the one whose presence draws us on Sunday, is not here.

“Crucified died and was buried, he descended into hell.” Nineteenth Century Methodists removed that portion of the Creed, claiming it unbiblical. But it’s not. The First Epistle of Peter speaks of Christ’s descent into hell, called by the Church, “The Harrowing of Hell.” Harrowing is a military term meaning to “make predatory raids or incursions.” Therefore, after Christ’s burial yesterday and through today, Satan’s territory is being invaded by the one who yesterday died upon the cross.

Following his death, when he breathed his last, Jesus descended to hell. Having preached to us, the living, he descended to the dead and is there proclaiming the good news to those who lived and died before his coming.

How did the church come up with such a notion, this “harrowing of hell?”

It was inconceivable to the church that only those who were living during the time of Jesus and afterword would benefit from the salvation he brought to the world and all those who died before his coming would be excluded from that salvation. So everyone who died before his coming, all the way back to Adam and Eve, have the opportunity to receive his word of salvation.

He is there, doing what he does so well, preaching, teaching, touching, relentlessly seeking, persuading, inviting, and announcing the love and mercy of God. As the Psalmist says, “Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell.” Even Byzantine art depicts Jesus, in the jaws of hell, giving a hand to those who had died, lifting them up out of the darkness.

And though he is down there, and therefore not here, there is something to be said to those of us he has temporarily left behind. That word is this: Because I am there, descended into the deadly darkness, confronting the enemy on the enemy’s own turf, you have hope.

If he is there, literally fighting for the souls in Hell, then we can know with all certainty that there is no darkness, sorrow, or pain we can experience, that his loving presence cannot enter into. If he is willing and able to risk all, to wade deep into the death we so fear and avoid, then what might he risk for us?

Do you remember the stories Jesus told about God and the kingdom of Heaven? The good Shepherd who forever seeks the one lost sheep, the faithful father who awaits the return of the one lost son, the relentless woman who does not rest until she finds the one coin. Jesus meant those things when he said them and he doesn’t mind looking in hell for those righteous souls that departed this world before his arrival.

On that first Saturday before the resurrection the disciples, Mary, and the rest mourned the loss of their savior, but he had not truly left them. He had only gone to complete his Father’s work.

Sermon: Good Friday

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And God held in his hand a small globe.
Look, he said.
The son looked.
Far off, as through water, he saw a scorched land of fierce color.
The light burned there, crusted buildings cast their shadows
a bright serpent, a river uncoiled itself, radiant with slime.
On a bare hill a bare tree saddened the sky.
Many people held out their thin arms to it,
as though waiting for a vanished April to return to its crossed boughs.
The son watched them.
Let me go there, he said.

That is the poem “The Coming” by R.S. Thomas. It speaks of Jesus’ willingness to come to this world in order to save the people of God and it expresses a love that goes beyond our ability to comprehend. It also sets the stage of where we are today.

I can give you the details of the crucifixion, the process of nailing Jesus to the cross and all that. The blood. The agony. The cruelty of the crowd that gathered to watch. But today, instead of looking, I want you to listen to the sounds surrounding that event.

There would be the voices of all those gathered: the guards, people moving around, some weeping, the groans of those crucified alongside Jesus. But the only sound I want you to hear is the heavy labored breathing of Jesus as he hangs upon his cross. And then he speaks one last time, “It is finished.” Then there is a great silence.

Although it is painful, we must remember that it was the sins of the world, including ours, that put Jesus on the cross. We are as responsible as the ones who hammered the nails.

So, I want you to imagine when Jesus breathes his last and that great silence falls, you suddenly hear a voice. Even though there are many gathered around you, you know that voice is speaking to you and it is the voice of God the Father.

In that moment and in that silence, knowing that you are responsible for the death of Jesus, what would you imagine the voice of God saying to you?

I think that it would be easy to hear anger in that voice: “Look what you have done!” “What have you got to say for yourself?” “I’m so disappointed in you.”

I believe there would be such sadness. The horrible screams of a parent who has lost a child: “My son. My son.”

Finally, I can imagine words of rejection, “Get out of my sight!” “You make me sick!” “I never want to see you again.”

I can imagine these responses, because they are very human responses. They are the words that come from our mouths in times of great anger and sadness, but the voice of God that speaks in the silence of your heart after the death of his one and only son never even thinks, much less says, anything of this nature.

Instead, God the Father would speak words of comfort: “Everything is going to be OK now.” “This had to happen just as I planned.” “Don’t be afraid.” “Remember what my son said, ‘In three days this temple will be raised.’”

There would also be words of love and acceptance: “This act of obedience by my son has bridged the gap between you and I.” “My love for you extends beyond eternity.” “We will be together forever. I will be your God and you will be my child.”

Scripture records no such words from God at that moment when the silence fell, but no words needed to be spoken. The cross and the lifeless body of Jesus declared it all. “For God so loved the world….”

In just a few minutes, as we approach the veneration of the cross, allow yourself to hear the voice of God speaking to you. Understand that the cross is not brought before you as a means of beating you into submission or of making you feel guilty. It is brought in, venerated, and adored because it is God’s way of speaking and showing his love for you. It is the means by which true joy came into the world, for as the closing words of the anthem will declare, “We venerate your Cross, O Lord: and praise and glorify your holy Resurrection: for by virtue of the Cross joy has come to the whole world.”

Sermon: Community Good Friday Service

Crucifixion_019A popular monk in the Middle Ages, revered by all the townspeople, was known for his godliness and his love. One morning He said, This evening at vespers I’m going to preach on the love of God. The townspeople were excited. As the sun began to set, the people gathered at the great cathedral. They came to hear the monk preach the love of God. The last rays of sunlight glistened through the stained glass windows. Darkness began to creep into every corner. Total darkness engulfed the cathedral and the people were still waiting for the monk. Then they saw candlelight, a tiny little light came from the side room. It was the monk–He walked over to the great crucifix. The old monk held the candle and put it to the forehead where the artist had painted in red the symbol of the blood. The monk didn’t say a word and the people waited. Then he brought the candle down to the torn hands that symbolized love. He still didn’t say a word. They waited. The candle moved to the soiled feet. Finally, he brought the candle to Christ’s side. The artist had captured torn flesh of the Savior’s side. There wasn’t a sound, except for soft crying. The old monk then said, “This is my sermon on the love of God. In His head, in His hands, in His feet and in His side. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that who so ever believeth in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.” He concluded by saying, “This is my sermon on the love of God.”

The Gospels are much easier to read when we hear about the events surrounding Jesus’ birth with the manger and angels or with the feeding of the five thousand or the healing of the sick. These events bring us joy and give us a sense of awe. However, when the message turns from a cute little baby to the brutality of the Cross, we tend to want to turn away. But like those folks who watched as the monk illumined each of the wounds, we too are witnesses to these same wounds of Christ.

As we contemplate these events, we are often so overwhelmed that we fail to understand what is taking place, but the wise old monk helps us to see more clearly.

We hear that the side of Jesus was pierced and in our minds we see death. We hear that the curtains of the Temple were torn in two and we witness the anger of God and the destruction of His holy place. However, by being consumed with the horror of these images we miss the greater point, for both of these events point to God’s great love for his people.

In the shedding of his blood Jesus declares, “I love you enough to die for you.” In the curtains of the temple being torn, God the Father declares, “I will no longer limit access to my love, but will instead pour it out on all flesh, so that you may be a part of me and I might be a part of you.”

These mighty events show us how far God – the Creator of the Heavens and Earth – will go in order to love us. Therefore, if this is how far God is prepared to go to love us, what must we do in return? There must be something. Some type of payback.

Maybe we should make sacrifices? Isaiah 1:11 – “What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices?,” says the Lord; “I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats.”

Maybe, then, we should keep the law? Romans 3:20 – “For ‘no human being will be justified in his sight’ by deeds prescribed by the law, for through the law comes the knowledge of sin.”

So what must we do? Pray more? Give more? Try harder?

In No Man is an Island, Thomas Merton wrote, “The wise man has struggled to find You in his wisdom, and he has failed. The just man has striven to grasp You in his own justice, and he has gone astray.

But the sinner, suddenly struck by the lightning of mercy that ought to have been justice, falls down in adoration of Your holiness: for he had seen what kings desired to see and never saw, what prophets foretold and never gazed upon, what the men of ancient times grew weary of expecting when they died. He has seen that Your love is so infinitely good that it cannot be the object of a human bargain.”

So again, what must you do in order to receive God’s love? The love he poured out on all flesh? The answer: accept it. That’s it. All you have to do is accept it. If you refuse, this is all in vain. Accept the love of God. It is what makes this Friday good.

Sermon: Maundy Thursday

5d61da57e2917373e6761c0b6921e8b5Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.
For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you are proved right when you speak
and justified when you judge.
Surely I was sinful at birth,
sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
Surely you desire truth in the inner parts;
you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.
Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.

King David had been out on the roof of his house looking out on the city around him and the country that he ruled. As his eyes scanned the scenery he spotted a woman on the roof of her house – Bathsheba – who was naked and bathing. As King David watched, he began to desire her, and even though she was married he devised a plan to have her.

Her husband, Uriah, was one of his soldiers, so he had him sent to the front lines of a fierce battle where he would certainly be killed. He was and after the appropriate time of mourning, David had Bathsheba brought to him and married her.

The Lord saw David’s wickedness and sent Nathan the prophet to rebuke him of his sin. David confessed and it is believed that David wrote the Psalm I shared with you during his time of penance. He cried out to the Lord, “Wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.”

From the very beginning of human history when Adam and Eve were banished from the Garden of Eden, this cry has crossed the lips of all God’s children: “Wash me. Wash me from my sins so that I might be whiter than snow. So that I might be cleansed of my sins.”

It’s always been this way; however, on the day, ordained by God, Jesus opened the gates to another way. On that day, Jesus began by taking on the role of a slave and washed the disciples’ feet. Peter objected, but Jesus insisted, “If you are to be a part of me, if you are to be where I am going, then you must allow me to wash your feet. You must allow me to cleanse you.”

Following the foot washing, scripture says, “While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, ‘Take and eat; this is my body.’ Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.’”

It is fair to say that the disciples failed to understand the significance and the relation of these two events, but after his crucifixion they would come to understand that the foot washing was symbolic of the washing of their souls through the body and blood of Christ.

Jesus – God – humbled himself to the role of a slave and washed their feet so that they might be outwardly clean. Jesus – God – humbled himself to death upon a cross so that their souls might be cleansed.

Today we celebrate the gift of the most Holy Eucharist. The symbolism of the washing of the feet points to the washing of our souls, and it is the answer to our cry, “Wash me, Lord. Wash me and I will be whiter than snow.”