HOLY THURSDAY HOMILY 2012 –
Given at ST. MARY, TRENTON IL
When I was a youngster, there was a brand of athletic shoes that went by the name of “P.F. Flyers.” If you were going to be good athlete back in those days of my youth a kid had to have a pair of P.F. Flyers on his feet. Only today I discovered that the P and F were the abbreviation for Posture Foundation. P F was a patented insoles technology developed in 1933. Perhaps you’ll recall the shoes advertising slogan. Sport styles by PF, which were very popular in the 1950s, were advertised as helping you “run faster and jump higher” courtesy of the “action wedge” that was part of the insoles. P F technology enhanced your game. The P and F of the shoes was what made you better.
Tonight, I’d like to use the abbreviation “P. F. Revealers” to help us enhance our understanding of the mystery we celebrate over the next three days. In this liturgy instead of a pair of shoes there are a pair of “P.F. Revealers” that deepen our participation in the Paschal Mystery. What we do tonight is not play, but sacramental activity that is our participation in the mystery of our ability to share in the divine life of God revealed in Christ. Every baptized person is a sharer in the life of Christ and there are a pair of “P.F. Revealers,” sacramental signs at work in this liturgy that enhance our understanding of how to share in eternal life.
Let’s say the pair of P.F.s in P.F. Revealers stands for these things:
- Priest and Feet
- Poor and Food
The mystery of unbounded, perfect, fuller life is revealed tonight
is a pair of P. F.’s…
Priest and Feet
Poor and Food
This is what I mean…
Jesus is said to have instituted the Priesthood, the Sacrament of Holy Orders, this night at the last meal with friends. Let’s go with that, though some theologians have problems with the thought. The Apostles become the forerunners of what we now call ordained Priesthood. The twelve are given this office of leadership not by being crowned or anointed as priests of the Old Testament but become priests when Jesus tells them to wash feet! “As I have done for you, so must you do for others!”
The authority to lead a community and to preside at what we now call sacraments comes when a man is willing to humble himself like Jesus. Jesus is doing the work of the household slave, not a master of the house. Priests are the sacramental presence of Jesus most when a we put ourselves at the service of a community of believers, when we forgo our ego, when we sacrifice our need to see our wills fulfilled in favor of the needs of the people we are sent to serve. That sacrifice takes form in all sorts of things from baptizing children to burying the dead; teaching the young to administering the life of a parish while forgoing the good of a life long spouse. The best priest is one who in humility says I’m here to serve not to be served, like the servant of old who bowed down to the floor to wash the feet of the important guests. You are the guests, I better not forget it, or I am not the sacramental presence of Jesus in this place.
And so each year on the day we recall the gift of Christ present in the very human person of a priest, the church asks that her priests, from simple parish priest all the way up the hierarchical ladder to Pope, get down on the floor and be an example to their people to remember their position in the Kingdom of God, that of servant. Brothers and sisters, by the willingness of 12 people to bear their feet before us all, tonight, you help me remember who I am, the representative of the servant of humanity, Jesus Christ and whose I am, that I belong to Christ with you. I am so thankful that I am a priest. It has made my life richer, fuller than I could imagine living any other way. In this dying to self, in serving you I am to be an example to you that sacrifice of self does lead to fuller life.
But the washing of feet is not just for my benefit. A priest washing feet is to be a sign to all present that you too are called to wash the feet. “As I have done for you, you must do for others” was not just addressed to the apostles, but to the whole church who the twelve represent in the upper room. (Surely there were some women present who helped with the meal! Those guys didn’t do all the cooking!). Every time one of you changes a diaper, it’s dying to self so the child has a better life. Every time one of you cooks for the family, it’s taking on the role of a slave (and mom sometimes thinks her kids look at her that way!) revealing the one who serves the church the meal of his body and blood. Taking care of the elderly parent, volunteering at the parish, visiting the grieving at the funeral home…all forms of service by a member of the Body of Christ, makes the servant Christ who washes the feet of his disciples present.
Priest and Feet leads us to Poor and Food.
Our experiencing the sacramental sign of Jesus present through “Priest and Feet” leads this assembly to a response of “Poor and Food,” our second “P.F. Revealer.” Who must we serve? Those in need. The poor are members of our family who need us. The poor are people beyond our family in need. We do as Jesus did. We become servants to the poor this night in a symbolic way washing their feet by bringing food to the table. Hopefully, everyone has brought a gift for the poor, tonight, be it food for the Green Bean Pantry or the money from your Rice Bowl. We become a sign of the Love of Christ by serving those in need, sharing our treasure of food and money.
Only when we are willing to sacrifice our time, talent and treasure, only when we are willing to sacrifice ourselves for the sake of others, can the Eucharistic presence of Jesus become a reality on our altar. The earthy food of bread and wine changing into his body and blood must be accompanied by our sacrificing of self that imitates the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. Food becomes a symbol of the dying and rising of Jesus, because the food is a symbol of the Body of Christ in the pews sacrificing itself like Jesus for the sake of the world. The Eucharist is not magic words transforming food into something else. Our lives of thanksgiving revealed in humble service to others for what Christ has revealed in his passion, which we re-present at the altar, makes the Eucharist possible. In the Gospel of St. John the institution of the Eucharist is not the words “This is my body, This is my Blood, do this in memory of me” but the words that follow the foot washing, “as I have done for you, so must you do for others.” Humble food of bread and wine represent the humble lives of service we lead, baptized into union with Christ’s Body. The servant food, becomes the servant Christ, because the servant church gives thanks under the leadership of its servant priest.
What a marvelous interconnected web of strings of meaning our liturgy weaves for us, tonight! Our pair of “P.F. Revealers” helps us delve more deeply into the mystery of life coming from death, richer living revealed in self-sacrificial service of others.
Priest and Feet
Poor and Food
show us the way to life in Christ, now and beyond death, forever,
Priest and Feet
Poor and Food
be the revelation of the “must have” truth that will make our life complete.
©2012 Rev. Joseph C. Rascher
May not be copied without permission and attribution of authorship