First Reading: Acts 13:13-25
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 88(89):2-3,21,22,25,27
Gospel: John 13:16-20
Non-Christians and even some Christians find it difficult to believe in the divinity of Christ, simply because, some New Testament passages refer to him as the Son of God. For them, how could the Son of God be equal to God? Worst still, they use other biblical passages where Jesus is referred to as a servant and exclaim, ‘how can this servant be equal to God?’ Besides, Jesus also talked of the Father as greater than himself (cf. Jn. 14:28); therefore, ‘how can this Jesus be equal to God?’ Apparently, those who base their conviction on these references above do injustice to the Word of God by taking the biblical texts out of context.
The reality of Jesus’ divinity, sonship, and servanthood is clearly expressed throughout the Scriptures. First, we are told by John that Jesus, the eternal Word of God is God (cf. Jn. 1:1). Asides other passages, Paul makes us understand that this Jesus “was in the form of God, but did not count equality with God, a thing to be grasped. He emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he became obedient unto death, death on a cross. Therefore, God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven, on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil. 2:6-11). This Pauline passage, I believe, settles the confusion above. Here, we see the kenosis (self-emptying) of Christ whose state was divine; out of his humility, he accepted to become man and assume the position of a servant in order that we might learn from him and be saved. Understanding the truth of the preceding, our today’s Readings become clearer.
In the first reading, we hear Paul’s address to the people, explaining to them how God raised Jesus (one of David’s descendants) as the Saviour of mankind. His dignity was so great that Paul makes reference to John the Baptist, who declared that ‘he was not worthy to undo the straps of his sandals.’ Here, we see John the Baptist’s expression of humility before the Lord and Saviour of mankind. Nevertheless, today’s Gospel depicts this Lord and Saviour of mankind with great majesty and dignity, washing the feet of his disciples during the scene of the ‘last supper.’ By washing his disciples’ feet, Jesus presents them the message of humility, love, and service. We understand that it was the sole duty of a servant in that Mediterranean culture to wash the feet of others. Thus, by washing his disciples’ feet, Jesus reflects his kenosis, an extraordinary act of self-emptying and self-giving love. Here, his sacrificial death on the cross (self-emptying and self-giving ) the next day was anticipated. Interestingly, the Eucharist we celebrate daily is that very act of self-emptying on the cross; little wonder St. Paul says, “when we eat this bread and drink this cup, we proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” (1Cor. 11:26).
Dear friends in Christ, when was the last time you ‘washed the feet’ of your brethren? This should not be understood as a literal washing of the feet, rather a symbolic gesture, demonstrating service, humility, sacrificial self-giving, and love. Recall that before Paul presented Christ’s kenosis in his letter to the Philippians (as described above), Paul was trying to teach the Philippian community to live out the virtues of humility, service and self-giving in order to reflect the mind of Christ: “Nothing is to be done out of jealousy or vanity; instead, out of humility of mind everyone should give preference to others, everyone pursuing not selfish interests but those of others. Make your own the mind of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 2:3-5). This ‘mind of Christ’ is the kenosis (rooted in humility, love, service, obedience, and sacrificial self-giving) which he demonstrated in the subsequent verses. Therefore, whenever we celebrate the Eucharist, we are celebrating the ‘mind of Christ’ in order to become more like him.
As we receive the Eucharist daily (whether sacramentally or spiritually), we pray and ask God for the grace to reflect this mind of Christ – humility, service, love, obedience, and sacrificial self-giving in our day to day lives for the good of our families, neighbourhood, community, society, and the world.
© Fr. Chinaka Justin Mbaeri, OSJ
Paroquia Nossa Senhora de Fatima, Vila Sabrina, São Paulo, Brazil
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