Sixth Sunday of Easter
May 21, 2017 – Year A
Readings: Acts 8:5-8, 14-17 / Ps 66 / 1 Pt 3:15-18 / Jn 14:15-21
by Rev. Paul O’Donnell Duggan, Guest Celebrant
I’ve always been impressed by the quality of the hospitality of Filipino families. I have spent almost fifty years in New Jersey, and in every parish I was in, we always had Filipino families.
There was one in particular that would call at least once a month, sometimes twice, “Father Paul, can you come over?” It’s 8 o’clock at night or 9 o’clock, and I say “Oh, I’d love to, certainly.” At that hour, I’ve already had my dinner. When I go over, there is a huge dinner waiting.
The next time they called, I said “Angie, I’ve already had my dinner. Just a wee cup of tea and a slice of toast – that’s paradise for me.” (If there’s no tea or toast in heaven, I may not be going.) The second time, there is a big dinner again. Third time, “Angie, remember, I’ve had my dinner already.” This is always 8 or 9 o’clock again: “Just a wee cup of tea and a slice of toast.” I get over there again, and once again dinner is waiting.
Now, if you asked Eddie and Angie, “Do you love Father Paul?” They would say, “We adore that man. We love that man. Yes, of course we do.” But they love me their way, rather than loving me my way.
If you were to turn that around and ask the question “Do we love God His way, or do we love God our way?” All of us would say, of course I love God His way. But that’s why we have God’s word today that is challenging, when He says “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” Jesus summarized those commandments: love of God and love of neighbor.
I want to just briefly focus on the love of neighbor.
I have a card here that you probably will not be able to make out; this is my favorite holy card. Do you remember when you were growing up, or at least when I was growing up, the holy card that you saw was the Crucifixion or the Heart of Jesus or Jesus in the arms of His mother after He had died? They were the most popular ones. And one that I never saw was this particular one here, Jesus washing the feet of Peter.
Jesus tells us: “If you love Me, I want you to love Me my way.” The commandments of love of God and love of neighbor are summed up in Jesus’ washing the apostles’ feet.
They were his friends. It’s difficult to love all of those around us, and today I’m talking about washing the feet of those whose feet are very smelly and dirty. How do you wash the feet of those who are very smelly and very dirty? Of course we’re not talking about literally those type of feet; we’re talking about those people who are difficult to be with: Those people who are at times totally obnoxious. Those people who are very hurtful to us by the things they say about us or do behind our backs (or even in front of us.) People that in a sense it’s impossible to wash their feet because they don’t deserve it.
And that’s what washing of feet is all about. It’s washing the feet of those who do not deserve to have their feet washed, according to our mind. But according to His mind, that’s the whole purpose of the washing of the feet: doing it for those who are awkward, those who are belligerent, those who are not easy to love.
We can do that in many ways. I have a sister-in-law who lives far away, and there was never a closeness, sad to say. And I’m sure, I know in my own heart, there is a door that has to be opened so that the evil spirit can get out of there. So I opened the door on Mother’s Day. First time ever, I sent her a Mother’s Day card, indicating I do want to wash her feet.
Today, when you receive Holy Communion, dear friends, think about who is the person in your life that’s very awkward, that’s very difficult, that’s very nasty, that doesn’t deserve for you to wash their feet. This is the challenge.
Ask Jesus in Holy Communion: go back, close your eyes, bow your head “Lord, this is the person in my life, Lord, I hear Your word today: “If you love Me, love Me my way. Keep My commandments.” Those commandments are summed up in washing the feet of those who do not deserve, in our mind, to have their feet washed but in His mind deserve it wholeheartedly.
Ask Him, Lord give me the grace today. Ask Jesus today, Lord help me this day, help me this week, Lord, to wash the feet of that person who does not deserve to have his or her feet washed.