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Lent is a time for Christians to fully examine their relationship with the Lord. Through prayer, sacrifice and service, we develop an understanding of what it means to "take up your cross and follow me." (Mark 8:34) As Christians, we are called to live Christ's life- not to study the life of Jesus and try to be like Him, but actually let Him live through us.

In my own journey this Lent, Our Lord is asking me to fully understand His love. Through several prayer experiences, I hear him calling me to this deeper understanding of His love- not just with my head, but with my heart. And the key to understanding that amazing love is to understand His suffering. My intellect understands that the Lord suffered, but I have never explored His suffering with my heart. His love is greater than His suffering, but how great was that suffering?

I am participating in an independent Threshold Bible Study called People of the Passion by Stephen J. Binz. In this study, I will explore the meaning of discipleship through the people who encounter Jesus during His passion. These people witness and are impacted by the suffering of Jesus. They saw the suffering of our Lord first hand. It is my hope that by going on this journey through their eyes, I will have a better understanding of His suffering and then of His love.

Please know that I am not a scholar. I have no formal education in theology, philosophy or church history. I'm just a regular person trying to make sense of what Jesus is asking me to do- to love like He loves.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Day 3- Simon Peter is Taught to Serve

John 13:1-17

In this passage, Jesus takes on the role of servant and washes the feet of His disciples.  At first, Peter refuses to let Jesus wash his feet.  But then Jesus says, "Unless I wash you, you have no share with me."  Peter responds by saying, "Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and head!"

I love Peter.  He is my favorite disciple.  John is my favorite gospel writer, but Peter is my favorite disciple.  He wears his heart on his sleeve.  He says exactly what he is thinking.  When Peter requested a bath from Jesus, I can hear the chuckles of the other disciples and see the smile spill across our Savior's face.  I think the reason I am so drawn to Peter is because I am a lot like him.  I tend to say exactly what I am thinking before my brain can stop me.  I let fear and emotions guide me at times.  I can relate to how Peter feels inadequate.  But most of all, I can see how much Peter loves the Lord.  And that warms my heart.

Jesus washes the feet of the disciples because he wants them to take on the role of servant.  Jesus knows that these men will be great teachers, preachers, writers and thinkers.  Because of that, He wants them to be grounded in love.  And when you love someone, you serve them.  Jesus loved his disciples and he showed them how much he loved them in this act of being their servant and washing their feet.  He showed them that he would be willing to do anything for them- even die on a cross.  Jesus wants his disciples to serve the christian community- not just teach and preach to them.  He wants them to love the community as He loves the community.  And Peter understood.  In the end, Peter gave his life for the community.  Peter served and loved.

I have to say that it is easier to serve than to be served.  It is hard for me to ask for help, or even to accept unsolicited help.  I totally would have reacted the same way Peter reacted if Jesus tried to wash my feet.  But, how are we to know how much we are loved if we refuse to let others in?  If we shut the door on those who want to help, then we are cheating ourselves of having that love given to us.  We are also cheating those who want to help of the joy of giving and serving.  Serving others does build character.  But being served builds character also.  Recently, my Dad gave us a large sum of money.  We had a lot of unexpected expenses in the form of a new hot water heater, washer and dryer the day after Christmas.  My parents were visiting us when everything broke.  About a week after they got back home, a check arrived in the mail from my Dad.  I immediately wanted to send it back.  I got on the phone and started my speech about how I was going to send the check back.  He wouldn't let me talk.  He just wanted us to have it.  And when he was finished, I knew that this was one of those moments when I needed to let him help me.  I needed to let him wash my feet.

Having your feet actually washed by someone you love and admire is a humbling experience.  And by washed, I mean with water and towels.  I spend several years uninvolved with a Catholic community.  I would go to church here and there, but I never got involved.  I didn't want to get to close to anyone.  When I realized that this was not healthy for my spiritual life, I started to try to figure out why I didn't want to be involved.  To make a long story short, I was fearful of being vulnerable to people in ministry.  I realized this fear while I was on a retreat.  During the Mass at the end of the retreat, the priest (whom I admired but feared to actually know) took off his vestments, got on his knees and started to wash the feet of the congregation.  When I realized what was happening, not only was I shocked, but I was ready to bolt.  But no one else was bolting, so I decided not to show just exactly how crazy I was to the rest of the women on the retreat and I stayed in my seat.  When the time came, I took off my shoes, and this very kind man whom I greatly admired and respected washed and dried my feet.  It was a healing experience.  If he was willing to wash my feet, then how could I continue to avoid actually knowing him and talking to him?  If he loved his community that much, then how could I not trust him?  I was in his office the very next week.  And the rest is history.

Jesus shows us how service and love are all wrapped together.  They are inseparable.  Jesus served to the very end.  His final act of sacrificing his life so that we may have life is the ultimate act of a loving servant.  He gave all of Himself for us.  How can we not turn around and do the same for Him and those He loves?

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