Thursday, April 13, 2017



What I have just done was to give you an example: as I have done, so you must do. 
John 13:15

We human beings have a long and interesting history of both helping and hurting each other. In spite of all our wars and sophisticated weapons, we fundamentally remain a social and cooperative species. We have survived all these years mainly because we have helped each other along the way. Even our prehistoric relatives exhibited tenderness toward each other. There is evidence that they lined their children’s slippers with fur, cared for their cripples and even buried their dead with flowers.

The creation stories of Genesis remind us that God created us to be interdependent – to need each other. We are told that even from the very beginning, we have denied our interdependence. Adam and Eve denied they needed God. Cain and Abel denied their need for each other. “Am I my brother’s keeper?” The rest of history is just one episode after another of vacillation between helping and hurting each other – between accepting and denying our interdependence. 

When Jesus comes to us in history, he simply restates in a more dramatic way what was true from the very beginning – that we must love God and our neighbors as ourselves. He did not just, of course, talk about it. He lived it to the very last drop of his blood. While we were still sinners and undeserving of being loved, he still loved us! He would not let that connection of love between God and us be severed – not matter what we did or did not do!

His life and death was one great “show and tell” on how much we are loved and cared for! One of his great final “show and tells” is recorded in tonight’s gospel. Remember, it was a response to an argument among his followers over who was the greatest. After telling them, again and again, that “it cannot be that way with you,” Jesus gets down on his hands and feet and does what a slave would do – he washes their feet!

The text is clear. This dramatic gesture is only an “example!” Surely, Jesus wants more from us that a yearly repeat of this “example!” Jesus certainly wants us to translate this “foot washing” into our own language and culture. We must find our own ways to serve each other, wait on each other, notice each other’s suffering, put each other’s need first and be there for each other. In short, to be like Jesus, we need to get over our need to be loved and learn to give love – to get over our need to be getters and learn to be givers.

Again this year, the message of this gospel story is loud and clear! Out happiness lies in cooperation, not competition! Only cooperation will save us. Our competition is actually killing us! The “sacred cow” of competition will not die easily. We must kill it within ourselves first, or else collectively, it will kill us in the end! We are created to be interdependent!

I would like to end this homily with a poem someone sent me many years ago! It is called “The Cold Within”


Six humans trapped by happenstance
In dark and bitter cold
Each possessed a stick of wood--
Or so the story's told.

Their dying fire in need of logs,
But the first one held hers back,
For, of the faces around the fire,
She noticed one was black.

The next one looked cross the way
Saw one not of his church,
And could not bring himself to give
The fire his stick of birch.

The third one sat in tattered clothes
He gave his coat a hitch,
Why should his log be put to use
To warm the idle rich?

The rich man just sat back and thought
Of wealth he had in store,
And keeping all that he had earned
From the lazy, shiftless poor.

The black man's face bespoke revenge
As the fire passed from his sight,
For he saw in his stick of wood
A chance to spite the white.

And the last man of this forlorn group
Did nought except for gain,
Giving just to those who gave
Was how he played the game,

Their sticks held tight in death's stilled hands
Was proof enough of sin;
They did not die from cold without--
They died from cold within.


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