Relationships are worth restoring (Rick Warren, Purpose Driven Life, 152). It’s worth it to reach out, start again, apologize, forgive, and not give in to bitterness. But it’s hardest with the people with whom we live and work. After a while, we may start realizing that we don’t even like them. That’s why we often avoid eye contact with people with whom we’re angry. Eye contact is a sign of intimacy and goodwill.
[Listen to Fr. Justin’s homily here.]
[Watch Fr. Justin’s homily here.]
* Image used was from Holy Thursday 2019
How do we get to that point when we’re happy to see someone again, when our faces light up; there’s a big smile, big eyes, warm voice? Jesus says, at the end of tonight’s Gospel, “If I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet” (Jn 13:14).
Washing feet is fundamentally a sign of Jesus’ death, His self-emptying, and love for us. He dies for us because it’s always worthwhile to restore relationships.
Here are four realities that will make it possible for us to attempt to restore relationships.
Reality #1: It starts with God the Father. The text says, “Before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end” (Jn 13:1).
Jesus talks about His hour. This is now our hour to draw closer to God the Father. Every moment of our lives is arranged by Him, except for sin; even then, He uses it to bring about a greater good. He has arranged tonight for us to receive Jesus so that we can love the people in our lives to the end. Tonight’s part of the Father’s plan.
Reality #2: We’re not helpless; we’re powerful in Christ. “During supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God…” (Jn 13:2-3). The text shows Jesus’ knowledge and power (Francis Martin & William M. Wright, The Gospel of John in Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture, 233). He’s fully aware that the Father is in control, that everything that is happening is allowed to happen because He so wills it.
Through our Baptism, we share in Jesus’ power. We know He’s in control, that He can help us, and we’re not victims who have no other choice.
A lot of us sometimes act like we have to be grumpy, annoyed, bitter, etc. No. We can control our behaviour. You know how sometimes you’re in an argument, shouting, “Fine!” and then the phone rings and we’re all polite and cheerful? We are created in Jesus’ image, we are free moral agents, and we have His power in us through Baptism.
Reality #3: Confession of sins. Jesus says, “One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet” (Jn 13:10). Full bathing has connotations of Baptism; we’re made clean in Baptism. So, washing the feet, Pope Benedict XVI suggests, refers to confession of sin (Jesus of Nazareth, Vol. 2, 72-74).
Now, if you think you can restore relationships without confession of sins, good luck! However, there’s no such thing as luck, but good luck anyway! Why? Our sins blind us, making us think that we haven’t contributed to the problems in the relationship. They also push us away from Jesus.
Tonight, we celebrate the institution of the priesthood. Jesus gave us the priesthood as spiritual fatherhood. We need Confession to reconnect with God the Father’s love, and to extend His mercy to other people.
If you’re able to go to Confession safely during this time, please do. Again, we’ll offer drive-through Confession if you’d like. If you’re justly worried about getting sick, then confess your sins directly to God. And if you wonder why then did God give us the sacrament when we can confess directly to Him, please read my homily of November 24, 2019.
Reality #4: Jesus is our example and life. “For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you” (Jn 13:15). Jesus’ actions are inspiring. To be a Christian means to be like Christ. But one of the great truths of Christianity is that Jesus is not just a moral example, but the source of spiritual life. Some philosophers think it’s enough to know what’s right in order to do it. But even when we know what’s right, we don’t do it. What’s missing? Our wills need help. And grace is a spiritual help to the human will.
How do we receive more grace? Two ways: sacramental or spiritual communion. Sacramental is when we receive Jesus physically, and understand Whom we’re taking. Spiritual is when we receive Jesus physically but also have a real longing for union with Him and to receive grace.
Tonight is also the night when we celebrate Jesus’ giving us the Eucharist. Many times, we’ve received Jesus physically, but gone through the motions and received no spiritual grace. Why? Because our free will had no desire to receive help. If we have no desire for growth, then we receive none.
On the other hand, St. Thomas Aquinas teaches that we can receive the grace/power of the sacrament simply by desire.
The writer Vinny Flynn says that he used to see this as a consolation prize: Since I can’t take sacramental Communion, then I’ll settle for spiritual communion (7 Secrets of the Eucharist, 85). But that’s not entirely accurate. St. Maximilian Kolbe said, “At times, spiritual Communion brings the same graces as sacramental.” It all depends on desire. If we want it, we get it. Those who ask, receive. That’s why St. Francis de Sales would make a spiritual communion every 15 minutes a day. The man was hungry!
So why ever bother receiving physical Communion? Because we’re physical beings. In this time of social distancing, we can love each other profoundly, but we were meant to be in each other’s physical presence, right?
Anyone who says, “I’m satisfied with confessing to God directly or doing spiritual communions,” when physical options are available is like people getting married on Zoom and never wanting to live with their spouse.
Please pray the spiritual communion prayer we’ll put up later on the screen, and do it with desire. Or search online for other versions of the prayer.
I remember driving with a friend who was so angry with his dad. And we had been talking about the right thing to do, Jesus’ example. We pulled up to his house and he said, “I’m going to go in there and apologize to my dad because it’s the right thing to do!” He was inspired by Jesus’ command, and his determination to do the right thing was inspiring to me.
I also remember hearing a priest share some story about not liking his bishop. But the priest was a deeply spiritual man, and was wrestling with the Holy Spirit about whether he should kiss the bishop’s ring. On the one hand, he couldn’t stand this bishop. On the other, he knew that showing respect was what Jesus wanted. And when the bishop was greeting people in a line, the priest felt a force push him down to kiss the bishop’s ring! That was the power of grace. But the priest desired it.
Relationships are worth restoring. And four realities will help us do it: 1) It all starts with God the Father. 2) We are powerful in Christ, not helpless. 3) We need to confess our sins. 4) And Jesus is our example and life.