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“You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”
April 1, 2021
In reflecting on the story of Jesus washing his disciples’ feet I found myself imagining what it would be like if the Last Supper was happening in our time. I thought, “What might Jesus do and say to be sure I learned the essential lesson He knew I would absolutely have to know if I was going to be a successful graduate of His school of ministry?”
I imagine myself saying, “You can’t be serious Professor. I could never let you do that!”
Exasperated, Jesus replies, “You still don’t get it Mike. In one way or another, what I’m doing represents the essence of what I’ve been trying to teach you and the others for three years!!! So, unless you let me do this for you, when it’s your turn, you’ll not be able to do this work very well.”
Forty years ago, when I first puzzled over this passage, a priest friend explained it this way. “It’s all about Pride and Empathy”. He told me how his ministry began to suffer when, as a young priest he found himself in a personal crisis that he kept to himself. Finally, his Bishop intervened and told him he needed to seek help. “If you let your pride keep you from accepting and experiencing help, you will never learn how to be a truly helpful servant of your flock”.
In my training for my work as another kind of helper, I’ve heard the word empathy and the ways to show it hundreds of times. But, in truth, until I experienced Jesus’ and his present day lay and clergy disciples’ unconditional, non-judgmental caring at a heart-deep level, I would never have understood what it means to step into another’s shoes in order to truly serve them.
I can just see Jesus, my Professor, concluding this lesson with “… Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples …” and, “maybe a few of them will join us as well”.