BRIDGEPORT—In washing the feet of his disciples, Jesus illustrates what the meaning of the Eucharist is in our lives, Bishop Frank J. Caggiano said at the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, last night.
The bishop said that at the Last Supper the Lord gave us the example of getting on our hands and knees and “washing the feet of others for their sake and for our salvation.”
“As he does on this most sacred night, the Lord Jesus invites you and me into the Upper Room to share in the great mystery he left his apostles that reveals to the world the depth of God’s gracious love,” he said to begin his homily.
In a Mass that was live-streamed from St. Augustine Cathedral, the bishop said the deeper meaning behind the washing of the feet is the need “to go out into the world and empty ourselves for others,” just as Christ has done in giving his life for us.
Humbling ourselves in such as way is not easy, but it is made possible through the “great gift of the Eucharist,” he said to the nearly 200 who attended the evening Mass in person.
On the night in which he himself washed the feet of diocesan seminarians who attended him at Mass, the bishop said that “in the quiet intimacy of the Upper Room, Jesus shows us his love for man and he shows us how to continue his mission.”
While the bishop quietly performed the moving ritual of washing and drying the feet, the silence of the Church was punctuated by the sound of the pouring of water and an infant vocalizing in a distant pew.
On Holy Thursday, Jesus “took the familiar element of the Passover meal—unleavened bread and the choices of wines and allowed them to be the medium through we receive his sacred body and blood, soul and divinity,” the bishop said.
Just as we are washed clean and nourished through baptism, the Eucharist is “a free gift cannot be earned or merited. So much does the savior love us that he has given you and me his very life,” he said.
The bishop said that during the Last Supper, the Lord baffled his disciples by leaving the table and doing what was customarily done by slaves.
“It is on this same night in such a sublime and beautiful moment that the Lord goes on to do something that may seem odd, almost provocative, something the apostles wouldn’t have immediately understood—washing the feet of those who were his guests.”
“What is the Lord trying to teach us?” bishop asked, adding that it is summarized in three familiar words heard at the end of Mass, “Go in peace.”
However, going in peace requires us to be prepared for the “great challenge” of washing the feet of all those we meet, particularly those whom we have shunned and others who have tried to do us harm, he said.
Most of us would be willing to wash the feet of those we love—our children, spouses, parents and friends, particularly when they are in need, the bishop said “because they have a hold on our hearts.”
“But are we willing to wash the feet of complete strangers when we don’t even know their names, those who come to us to ask for help—and there are many.”
“I ask you further, who in this church is willing to strip himself of comfort and pride and get on our hands and knees to wash the feet of those who have betrayed us, hurt us, sinned against us, maligned, mocked and slapped us—who would be willing to do that?”
The bishop quoted St Augustine who said, “We receive the Body of Christ to become the Body of Christ.”
“That challenge is a lofty one. Left to ourselves, we won’t be able to do it, but have no fear,” the bishop said because the Christ who dwells in us through the Eucharist will give us strength.
“I ask you tonight as you sit before the Eucharistic Lord, whose feet have you refused to wash? Whose feet have I refused to wash?”