One Holy Thursday I was listening to the reading of the Passion. When it came to the part where Peter says, "Lord, you will never wash my feet," the Spirit drew me into a meditation, into a dialogue, between Peter and Jesus.
Peter sees Jesus getting up from the table and asking for a basin and towel. Then he sees him taking off his outer garment. Peter thinks to himself, "Oh, my God, he’s going to wash our feet or something!"
Then he says to Jesus, "Lord, I understand what you’re trying to do. You’re trying to teach us something about humility and serving one another. You have often told us to wash each other’s feet and we didn’t.
"But we understand now. Really, there’s no need for you to get down on your hands and knees and do this humiliating thing. Please don’t! We understand."
Jesus says to him: "You don’t understand. You don’t serve one another, and you don’t wash each other’s feet. You’re still proud and want to be the big shots. There’s no other way to break through your pride except by myself washing your feet. If you don’t let me do this for you, you can have no part of me."
When he is in the garden with Jesus, Peter hears the sounds of soldiers coming and he thinks to himself, "Oh, my God, they’re coming after him like a common criminal!"
He turns and says to Jesus, "Lord, I know what you’re trying to teach us. We are the criminals. We are the thieves and robbers. We are the ones who get away with all our crimes.
"But you, you are the Innocent One. Lord, we understand now. So you don’t have to let yourself be taken like a common criminal! Please don’t go through with this! We’ll confess our crimes."
Jesus says, "You don’t understand. Yes, you are the thieves and robbers. You commit crimes in your hearts and get away with it. Real brigands go free and innocent people suffer. How can I get it across to you that there is great injustice in the world?
"The only way is to let you see Innocence Itself apprehended. Maybe then you’ll see the injustice all around you! Unless you let me do this for you, you can have no part with me."
When Peter hears that Jesus is going to be scourged by the soldiers, he runs to him and says, "O Lord, please, please don’t go through with this! Oh, please don’t! I know what you are trying to say.
"We have offended your Father by our lusts and addictions and unruly appetites, and now you’re going to have your flesh torn apart to show what sin does to you. But Lord, we understand now. You don’t have to go through with this! Please, please don’t!"
And Jesus says, "Peter, Peter, you don’t understand. Unless I show you in my own flesh what sin does, you won’t understand. So I’m going to have my flesh torn apart to make you realize how sins of the flesh disfigure the image of God. This is the only way to get through to you. Unless you let me do this for you, you can have no part with me."
Peter sees that Jesus is going to carry a cross through the streets of Jerusalem. He runs up to Jesus and says, "O Lord, no, no, you can’t go through with this! Don’t drag your cross through the streets and the jeering crowds! We understand now, really we do.
You told us to carry our crosses every day and to carry each other’s crosses. So we will. We promise we will. You don’t have to go this far! We’ll obey you. We’ll obey you."
And Jesus says, "You won’t obey. You won’t carry your cross and the cross of one another. Your selfishness is too great. No. I must go through with this. I must show what it costs to carry one’s cross. The human heart is too selfish, too self-centered. I must do this for you. If you don’t let me do this for you, you can have no part with me."
Then Peter realizes that Christ is actually going to be nailed to the cross. "Oh, my God, he’s going to go through with this terrible tragedy!"
He runs up to Jesus and says, "Lord, O my Lord, stop, stop! We understand! We understand! We will stop being selfish. We will lay down our lives in love for one another. O my Lord, please don’t allow yourself to be killed. No, don’t! We understand now."
Jesus says, "No, you don’t understand. I’m telling you, unless you allow me to die for you, your heart never will be broken open. The wound of sin is too great, an "incurable wound" which is too massive.
"You have to see me, your Lord and God, die for you. It’s the only thing that will break open the human heart. If you don’t allow me to die for you, you can have no part with me."
My brothers and sisters, we must "let in" the passion of Jesus. There is a way we can block it out of our hearts and consciousness. There is a cry in our hearts that says, "No, no, no, you don’t have to do that! Don’t wash my feet, don’t be scourged, don’t be nailed to a cross! You don’t have to go that far! Please, please, don’t!"
But he has done it and we must let it in. We must accept it. We must allow his passion to crack open our hearts. Jesus suffered his passion because it’s the only way he could get through to us, could make us realize what sin is.
The passion is not only a revelation of love; it is also a revelation of the darkness, of the magnitude of sin as well. We must allow Jesus to wash our feet and be scourged.
Let us even say to him, "Lord, if you must do it, then let the truth of your passion enter not only a small part of me—not only wash my feet, but Lord, let your passion enter my whole being so that none of your sufferings will be wasted. I see now that only by your wounds can I be healed."
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