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"GOD FIRST: A WAY TO INNER CONVERSION AND COMMITMENT" PART IV
The Servant Mind of Christ
“God First: A Way to Inner Conversion and Commitment” We have journeyed through lent with this theme and have now come to this point when we have to identify the qualities that must be present in order that God will truly become first in our lives. To put God first is to model our lives to the very life that Christ shown to us as an example; to put God first is to have the mind of Christ exemplified in the washing of the feet.
So what is in the mind of Christ? Jesus rises from the table and lays aside his garments. He removes his outer clothes signaling a manifestation of his deepest will. What is revealed in His deepest heart is His inner heart, His MIND! Underneath the garments are not richly embroidered Episcopal vestments but a towel – the towel of a servant, a towel that gets dirtier as Jesus kneels before his friends to wash their feet. What is revealed, therefore, is the SERVANT MIND OF CHRIST!
Let me point out three qualities of a SERVANT MIND (among many others) as exemplified in John 13:
1. FLEXIBILITY OF TIME. A German exegete in the name of Heinz Schirmann has called attention to the untimely nature of Jesus’ foot washing. During Jesus’ time, feet were washed before dinner, but Jesus washes His disciples’ feet at an unusual time: “while they were at supper.” It tells us that the servant mind is not ultimately controlled by human conventions of schedule and agenda; it is flexible enough to allow the times and seasons to be set by the Master.
Most of us if not all are controlled by our own schedule and agenda which at times inhibit us from doing our obligations to the Church. Our priorities are too focused on material goods that we forget what is essential. Christ reminds us in the washing of the feet that time is of the essence. Regardless of which time of the day, we must always allot a period in a day’s schedule or agenda for God no matter how little that is.
2. SELF-GIVING. We read in the account of the washing of the feet in John 13 Jesus’ self-giving love, His servant mind as he patiently understood, a greathearted but flawed apostle, Peter in the same way he treated Judas, who betrayed him.
Jesus could have been so patient to deal with His disciples especially with Peter and Judas. Two different persons with two different personalities have been made instruments to carry out the plan of the Father. At times, we see “Peter” and “Judas” in our midst but are unable to see workings of God coming into play through these persons but looking into their own giftedness. We are often prejudiced and closed minded that we could not allow the wisdom of God to work in our lives through them.
3. SERVANTHOOD. St. John supplies us with a multitude of little details that allow us to see with clarity what Jesus does: how he rises from table, how he removes his outer garments, how he wraps a towel around his waist, how he washes his friends’ feet and wipes them dry with towel. These details suggest that servanthood claims all the little details of one’s life.
We know of the lives of the great Saints of the Catholic Church, St. Francis of Assisi, our very own patron St. Anthony of Padua, Mother Teresa of our time and John Paul II, whose beatification we await on May first. They became Saints not only because of their exemplary lives but because of their total self-giving as they humbled themselves as servants of God. They did not mind recognition but that Christ would increase in the lives of all the faithful. God was always first in their lives.
Tonight, we will once again witness these three qualities of a servant mind put back to life as our pastor will wash the feet of some members of our community. Our pastor, being the head of our community, will do the humbling gesture of foot washing as Christ did to his disciples. In the world where many of us are too preoccupied with our own personal schedule and agenda; where many of us are unable to patiently understand the flaws of our brothers and sisters; and where many of us count every detail of our work purely as a job or business, we will be reminded of the qualities of the servant mind of Christ of flexibility, self-giving, and servanthood as these qualities are once again exemplified in this ritual. Taking the form of a slave in this ritual, may we also possess the qualities of the servant mind of Christ.