During my 30-day silent retreat I did discursive meditation
where I meditated on the scripture passage or on different scenes of Jesus.
Sometimes, they are part of scripture;
sometimes they are alongside scripture to help us
break open some of the deeper meanings.
We are to imagine ourselves in the scene
and then play back what happens in the scene and write about it.
One particularly powerful and yet difficult scene
that I was asked to meditate on was not a scriptural passage.
It is the time when Jesus is condemned to death
and before he takes the cross and to go up to Calvary.
Imagine yourself in the praetorium alone with Jesus.
He has just been scourged and he is awaiting to get his cross
and you go in with him and imagine yourself talking or being with Christ.
I imagined myself coming in and what I saw shocked me.
Jesus was lying face down on the dirt floor.
His whole back and legs and every part of his body
was covered in open wounds from the scourging.
There wasn’t any part of his body
that was not covered in open wounds, oozing with blood.
I get down on my knees and I cried, “What have they done to you?”
Jesus barely moves and instinctively I put my hand out to touch him
and he winces in pain because my hand touches a series of wounds.
I immediately jump back in shock that I have further hurt him.
Instead I lean down close to his face and I say,
“Jesus, it’s Brendan.
I’ve just come to be with you before they crucify you.”
He looks up, barely able to open his eyes and nods in agreement.
I knew there was nowhere else I could touch him.
Then he rolls over and he puts his head on my lap
as he struggles to prop himself up.
As I look at the front of his body, I see that it is covered
with as many welts, bruises and open wounds.
There is no place left to touch him.
There is nowhere to touch but the palm of his hand.
So, I touch the palm of his hand.
He acknowledges my presence by blinking at me.
Then I realize that his ‘crown of thorns’ is sitting in my lap
is now imbedded completely in my lap
and there is pouring blood from my legs.
My legs now were in aching pain
but I think what little suffering there will be
-to give him a moment of comfort.
I realize now that my blood is mixing with his blood,
both warm pouring down my leg.
Just then, I spy out of the corner of my eye one piece of his body
just above his heart where there was no open wound.
I put my hand down just above his heart.
He smiles as he looks and nods approvingly.
No pain as I touch him on his chest.
No pain as I touch his hand.
It is great comfort to him but even more comfort for me
that I can now touch him without causing him more pain.
Then he says slowly,
“Brendan, people are covered in wounds.
They have them internally and externally.
You need to find a way to touch people
where they do not have a wound so that they can be healed.
When you touch them in their wounds
even though you are trying to help,
they react and pull back just as I have.
Teach others not to touch each other’s wounds
because it really hurts even though you are trying to help.”
How often do we touch each other’s wounds?
I think even as siblings
-we don’t touch, we poke at each other’s wounds
and almost gain some twisted pleasure
as we push the buttons of our siblings.
We know it is a weak spot but we keep on pushing and pushing
until we see them yelp in pain
and then there is this twisted, twisted pleasure.
I don’t know where it comes from.
Even spouses do it to one another.
I have often seen it.
They keep on pushing and pushing until they get the reaction.
That is called love in the family?
Why do we do that?
Why is it that we insist on not just touching
but poking at each other’s wounds?
Those are the people we know.
Those are the people we go to, claim to love.
How much more do we do it to those whom don’t know so well?
Friends, we have to be careful to not touch each other’s wounds.
Life is already full of so much pain and suffering and discomfort.
We don’t need to create any more by intentionally
poking the wounds of Christ-of each other.
When Christ became one of us and suffered what he suffered,
he did so out of love for us.
He did it so that we could know without any shadow of doubt
that God became human and knows the complete human condition.
We cannot say he doesn’t know.
He couldn’t understand.
No. He does.
He’s been there. Did it.
He took those pokes-the mockery
-I mean just bear in mind he was God.
He didn’t even have to blink to obliterate anyone
who was thinking of hurting him.
And he chose not to. Why? Why did he choose not to?
Because it is the power of love that changes people
and nothing else changes others.
If we think we are going to change our spouse
or our sibling or somebody else
when we touch their wounds,
let me assure you it will not ever change their behavior.
Ask yourself-how do you like your wounds being touched?
How do you like your weak spots being exposed to others?
The reality is-we do not.
And none of us grow ever.
None of us ever heal or grow by somebody poking at our wounds.
It will never happen.
The only way that we can heal our wounds
or the wounds of others is when we love.
When we gently find the one place where it does not hurt
-and we touch there
-and we hold there and we treat them with dignity
and we say I am here.
“It’s me. I will walk with you in your pain.
I will walk with you in your suffering.
I will not touch your wounds.
I will love you.”
That is the profound message of the cross.
Christ comes to every one of us and says,
“I love you. I will not touch your wounds.
I will only heal you from your pain and your weakness.”
Today as we come forward to venerate the cross and to kiss the cross,
I ask you to think of your siblings, your spouse,
maybe your parents, your neighbors whoever it is
and think of their wounds and when you have pushed them.
Then think of your own wounds and those who have pushed your wounds.
And ask the Lord to heal you from your sins and your own wounds.
We touch his cross to give us the strength to love others
and to not touch their wounds
but to love them despite their wounds.
Change the Angle We Serve From
Recently, I went into a restaurant with a friend of mine.
I got to the table and the waiter did not come by.
Instead, the kitchen cleaning staff came out:
the first person said,
“Tonight I am going to be cleaning your dishes;”
the second person said,
“I’ll be cleaning your pots and pans;”
the third person said,
“I’m going to be cutting your vegetables.”
So, I looked at my friend and went:
“What the heck is this?”
Now if that really happened,
it would really be disorienting, wouldn’t it?
It’s not the sort of thing you would expect. Right?
We don’t usually go into a restaurant and
the people who we never usually see, are suddenly seen
and now tell us the work they are going to be doing for us.
That is how disorienting it was for the disciples
to have Jesus wash their feet.
We cannot fully appreciate how menial this job was;
the people who did it were completely unseen.
They were like the person who cleans the dishes.
We never leave a tip for the person cleaning the dishes.
We never leave a tip for the person who cuts the vegetables;
or who cleans the pots and pans;
or cleans the restaurant after we leave.
The only person we leave a tip for is the waiter.
It would be like the maid introducing us to our room in a hotel.
The reality is the maid is paid to not be seen
-to clean the room while I’m gone
-when I come back it’s done.
Even then, most people for some strange reason
do not even leave a tip for them-the unseen.
The ones who never count;
the ones who are never there.
Jesus chooses to raise up that person
-the person who would have cleaned the dirty, grimy feet.
The roads would have been dusty
so their feet would have been filthy, dirty, dusty feet.
In a wealthy house, the feet would have been cleaned
outside as you came in
or in a poor house, it occurred just before sitting down at table.
Obviously, they were at a poorer house
because Jesus sits down and does it at the table.
Why does Jesus then say to us to wash the feet of all
and then say do this in memory of me?
“This is what I want you to do.
Do you understand what I have done for you?”
The real answer should be-no, we don’t have a clue of what you just did.
That is what the disciples should have answered
because they didn’t understand.
It wasn’t until years later that they understood
that the whole purpose of discipleship is a call to serve.
First and foremost, we are called to serve others who are in need.
We are called to shed the outer garment and
humble ourselves to this menial task.
Now one could say this is symbolic that Jesus does this
-but he actually does it!
He doesn’t say talk about doing it.
Jesus actually does it.
Like we are going to do it tonight.
It is not meant to be just symbolic.
Yes, of course, it represents something more than
what we do tonight because you do not have dusty, dirty feet.
What we do when we line up is think about all the little people in our life.
Think about all the people who have no names,
who have served us just this day.
For example, the person who set up all this in the Church
and who remains nameless;
the person who did all the decorations;
the person who cleaned the Church last night in preparation for today;
cleaned the bathrooms;
all the people who helped do all the music in here today;
all the people who, you will never know their names.
All the children who made the paper flowers
we will see in the altar of repose.
None of whom we will ever know by name.
And that is just here.
How about the person who takes care of and
cleans some of the stuff in our house?
Maybe it is somebody we bring in or maybe it is our Mother,
who we have never once in our entire life thanked for cleaning the house.
Or the garden-it was done by some group of more-than-likely Mexicans,
who we never, ever see
-who come and do it-leave and go away.
Or maybe it is Dad whom you have never, ever thanked for doing the garden.
Think of all the food and all the products
that are on those shelves when we go into the market.
Do we ever for a moment think of how they got there?
From the person who picked that fruit or vegetable;
or the truck driver who brought it here late at night unseen
-deliberately-so we do not have to deal with them.
And was put on the shelf by another group of people
who put those things on the shelf.
And of course, the person at the desk who we probably
more than likely wonder why they take so long to do everything.
All of that happens behind the scenes
-something we constantly take for granted
-and some of those people are even undocumented,
who put the food on our table not only nameless
but now nameless and frightened.
Now they are nameless and afraid,
afraid of what might happen in their daily life.
When Jesus says do this in memory of me,
he also says do this Eucharist in memory of me,
which we do every single Sunday.
We connect the service of the lowliness of
remembering the little people in our lives
and we connect it back to what we do each and every Sunday,
which should be prompted memory for us to do this every week
-not just one time a year
-that we find a way in our life to be just a little bit
more humble of the radical comforts of our life
-that we be a little bit more humble as we wait in line for something
and not be so demanding;
that we wait at home as our parents cook our food
or we go to visit our parents when they are sick;
that we are a little bit more humble,
knowing that our parents have served us.
They have laid down their life.
They were Jesus in washing our feet for so many years.
Can we just put up with something for a while?
And know that our role is now to love them wherever they are?
Tonight’s celebration is about God’s profound love for us
and where that starts is down here on our knees.
We start at the lowest point.
We look up to serve.
We try not to look down to serve.
We’ve got to get low.
And we’ve got to get lower and lower every year
not out of some ridiculous, false sense of humility
but a genuine sense that we are abundantly blessed
almost too blessed to even know how blessed we are.
When you come tonight to have your feet washed
and you wash somebody else’s feet,
may we think about all the people who have served us,
not just this day, but in this last week and in our life;
think about how they have served us
for so many, unnamed, people and then thank God for them.
Today, we start, we start changing where we are.
We get down on our knees and we wash somebody else’s feet
someone we have never seen before.
In doing so, we are saying we are starting
from a different place from now on.
I’m not going to start from up here.
This is where I’m going to start [on my knees] from now on.
I’m going to look at life a little differently.
I’m going to change the angle through which I look at life.
And you cannot do that unless you are down on your knee.
My friends, tonight is about the feast of Christ’s love for us,
which first starts on our knee in humility
that we first must serve others.