We Are Servants With Christ
In his preaching, Paul presents Christ as the one who is coming which the whole Old Testament was alluding to, and John the Baptist as the immediate announcer of Jesus’ appearance of that fulfillment.
Jesus had told his disciples quite insistently and emphatically that neither power nor rank was to be the mark of the disciple but service: serving love. Now at the Last Supper, he showed this by his own example when he, the Lord and Master, washed the feet of his apostles. They, the servants, are no greater than their master. And his messengers are no greater than Jesus who sends them.
1 Reading: ACTS 13:13-25
From Paphos, Paul and his companions set sail and arrived at Perga in Pamphylia. But John left them and returned to Jerusalem. They continued on from Perga and reached Antioch in Pisidia. On the Sabbath they entered into the synagogue and took their seats. After the reading of the law and the prophets, the synagogue officials sent word to them, “My brothers, if one of you has a word of exhortation for the people, please speak.” So Paul got up, motioned with his hand, and said, “Fellow children of Israel and you others who are God-fearing, listen. The God of this people Israel chose our ancestors and exalted the people during their sojourn in the land of Egypt. With uplifted arm he led them out, and for about forty years he put up with them in the desert. When he had destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan, he gave them their land as an inheritance at the end of about four hundred and fifty years. After these things he provided judges up to Samuel the prophet. Then they asked for a king. God gave them Saul, son of Kish, a man from the tribe of Benjamin, for forty years. Then he removed him and raised up David as their king; of him he testified, I have found David, son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will carry out my every wish. From this man’s descendants God, according to his promise, has brought to Israel a Saviour, Jesus. John heralded his coming by proclaiming a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel; and as John was completing his course, he would say, ‘What do you suppose that I am? I am not he. Behold, one is coming after me; I am not worthy to unfasten the sandals of his feet.'”
Responsorial Psalm 89:2-3, 21-22, 25 and 27
R. (2) For ever I will sing the goodness of the Lord. or: R. Alleluia.
The favours of the LORD I will sing forever;
through all generations my mouth shall proclaim your faithfulness.
For you have said, “My kindness is established forever”;
in heaven you have confirmed your faithfulness. R.
“I have found David, my servant;
with my holy oil I have anointed him,
That my hand may be always with him,
and that my arm may make him strong.” R.
“My faithfulness and my mercy shall be with him,
and through my name shall his horn be exalted.
He shall say of me, ‘You are my father,
my God, the Rock, my savior.'” R.
Alleluia Revelation 1:5ab
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Jesus Christ, you are the faithful witness,
the firstborn of the dead,
you have loved us and freed us from our sins by your Blood.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel: John 13:16-20
When Jesus had washed the disciples’ feet, he said to them: “Amen, amen, I say to you, no slave is greater than his master nor any messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you understand this, blessed are you if you do it. I am not speaking of all of you. I know those whom I have chosen. But so that the Scripture might be fulfilled, The one who ate my food has raised his heel against me. From now on I am telling you before it happens, so that when it happens you may believe that I AM. Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.”
Rising to speak in the synagogue of Antioch in Pisidia, Paul summarizes the favour God has shown the Israelites through the ages. The culmination, of course, is God’s gift of Jesus, who comes as his people’s Saviour. In John’s Last Supper narrative, Jesus performs the great act of humility in washing his disciples’ feet. They are told that, in turn, they should do the same for one another. Jesus goes on to say that anyone in the future who receives one of his disciples receives him, as well as the One who sent him. Drawn by the Holy Spirit, the one who receives a disciple in humble charity is then enveloped in the Trinity itself.
Yet a somber note is struck in this idyllic, grace-filled picture. There is one seated at the table who is about to become the betrayer. Jesus alludes to him in a free adaptation of Psalm 41:10: “The one who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.” Meal sharing was a sacred act, a convivial expression of desired togetherness, wellbeing and blessing. For an enemy or a deceiver to share a meal was a grievous act of dishonesty. The allusion, of course, is to Judas, who is about to turn Jesus over to the authorities.
Is this not a situation that comes to us in life in ways seldom foreseen? To be betrayed or discarded by a friend is a cruel blow. It is felt deeply when inflicted by one whom we esteemed and cherished. And how should we deal with this? If we are the recipient of an offense, we gain nothing by allowing the wound to fester. If, on the other hand, we cause an injury, we want to ask forgiveness, in the words of scripture, before offering our gift at the altar. Forgiveness is fundamental to New Testament teaching.
But the words “I forgive” or “You are forgiven” do not fall easily from our lips, because it is very difficult to utter them insincerely.
“Servants are no greater than their master,” is Jesus’ reminder to us today. What moves service and makes it dedicated and unobtrusive is love. If we love people, they can come and ask us for any service. May God bless you, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen”