Fr. Charles Irvin
Exodus 12:1-8, 11-14; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26; John 13:1-15
The priest is most a priest when he humbly and without self- centeredness or self-consciousness washes the emotional, psychological and spiritual feet of those who come to him with the dust of the world’s road, the mud of the world’s ways, clinging to them. He is priest when he hands over his time and his energy for their care – without counting his costs in doing so for them.
The priest is most a priest when he stands for the honor of God, when he will not compromise the substance of our faith, nor the ways of our faith, in order to simply please people. He is priest when he does so without counting the cost of the loss of human respect for him. His only power is to hand over what Jesus taught us and what Jesus gave to us; he cannot hand over human stones when they need heavenly bread. We all want to be liked – but at what price? The priest cannot sell out the honor of God for thirty pieces of silver, or for whatever the going rate is for human respect.
The priest is most a priest when he hands over his life, his own personal convenience, his own agenda, or his own dreams, in order that he might devote himself to caring for those in front of him, who came to him, as they came to Jesus, in their need. He must do so without regard for the cost, or without regard for affirmations or acclamations (either his own or other’s) as a reward.
The priest is most a priest when he himself lives the sacrifice of Jesus Christ in his own personal life. He celebrates in an unbloody way Christ’s Sacrifice here on this altar. The priest also celebrates, in his own human flesh and blood, the many sacrifices of Christ. Poverty, chastity and obedience are lived by the priest in order to be powerless, in order to humbly place his life in the caring hands of our loving Father in heaven.
St Ignatius of Loyola, who was born the year before Christopher Columbus discovered America, said it all in a beautiful prayer:
LORD, TEACH ME TO BE GENEROUS;
TEACH ME TO SERVE YOU AS YOU DESERVE:
TO GIVE AND NOT COUNT THE COST,
TO FIGHT AND NOT TO HEED THE WOUNDS,
TO TOIL AND NOT TO LOOK FOR REST,
TO LABOR AND NOT ASK FOR REWARD
SAVE THAT OF KNOWING I AM DOING YOUR WILL.