Peter's Lesson of Humility

(Homily for Holy Thursday - for bilingual service)

Bottom line: In the dialogue between Jesus and Peter, we see the basics of the Christian life: humility expressed in service and the forgiveness of sins.

I begin with a summary in Spanish: En el dialogo entre Jesus y Pedro, vemos lo basico de la vida cristiana: humildad expresada en servicio y el perdon de pecados. Podemos imitar la humildad de Jesus en visitar los encarcelados - no solamente en prisiones, sino los presos en otras formas. Y reconocemos que Jesus quiere algo mas profundo - limpiarnos del pecado para venir a la mesa del Senor.

This year, for Holy Week, I am inviting you to accompany Peter. I am doing this for two reasons. First, we can easily identify with Peter: He tries to project a tough self-image, but often stumbles. In spite of all this, he ultimately comes back to Jesus - and in Jesus Peter finds his true identity. That relationship teaches us the meaning of true discipleship.

Besides learning from Peter what it means to be a disciple, he is important to us because his ministry continues in the Church. Jesus says to him, "Strengthen your brothers," "Feed my lambs," and "I give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven." The man who carries on this "Petrine ministry" today is Pope Francis.

To help understand the role of Peter, I would like to quote from Pope Francis' predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI. He wrote a wonderful book titled "Jesus of Nazareth." In the chapter on the Last Supper, Pope Benedict comments on the dialogue between Peter and Jesus:

Peter: "Master, are you going to wash my feet?"
Jesus: "What I am doing you do not understand now."
Peter: "You will never wash my feet."

Pope Benedict says that Peter's resistance is similar to his protest against Jesus' prophecy of the Passion, "God forbid! This shall never happen to you." It is the response to Jesus that we find throughout history: "You are the victor, you are the strong one one - you must never lower yourself and practice humility."

On many occasions Pope Benedict showed us the humility of Christ. Today, his successor, Pope Francis, is doing something dramatic: Washing the feet of youth in a detention center.

This evening I invite you to follow Pope Francis' example of visiting prisoners. We need volunteers at the Monroe Correctional Complex. For sure not all of you will become prison volunteers, but remember what we used to say about the Missions: Some give by going, other go by giving. Prison ministry is one of the works we support in the Annual Appeal. More about that next month.

To do the corporal and spiritual works of mercy - visit the imprisoned, care for the sick, welcome the stranger - requires some humility. The encarcerated, the ill, the immigrant, the homeless, the fatherless child, the elderly: they need us to reach out to them. We are called to wash the feet of others.

Foot washing has a significance even deeper than humility and service. It expresses the forgiveness of sins. Pope Benedict wrote, "Guilt must not be allowed to foster in the silence of the soul." Through confession we bring our guilt to light. "In confession," says Benedict, "the Lord washes our soiled feet over and over again and prepares us for table fellowship with him." Jesus says that the person who has his feet washed is clean all over.

So, in the dialogue between Jesus and Peter, we see the basics of the Christian life: humility expressed in service and the forgiveness of sins. We can imitate that the humility of Jesus by visiting prisoners - not just in correctional centers, but those imprisoned in other ways. And we recognize that Jesus wants something deeper - to cleanse us of sin so we can come to the table of the Lord. Amen.


From Archives:

2014 Homily: Discern the Body (bilingual)
2013: Peter's Lesson of Humility (bilingual)
2012: Blood Shed For Us (bilingual)
2011: The Love of Loves (bilingual)
2010: Foot Washing & Celibacy
2009: Join the Nearest Household
2008: Grandma, Can I Wash Your Feet?
2007: The Passover Lamb Must Be Eaten
2006: A New Friend at the Banquet
2005: Our True Companion
2004: A Girl's Heroic Holy Hour
2003: Do This!
2002: Humiliation of Priesthood
2001: Super-Abundance of Mercy
2000: Washing of Feet & Eucharist
1999: Family Struggles & Strengths

Other Homilies

Homilias en Castellano Para Jueves Santo:

2010: Lavatorio de Pies y el Celibato
2009: Que Se Junte Con Los Vecinos
2008: Abuelita, Puedo Lavarte Los Pies?
2007: Hay Que Comer el Cordero Pascual
2006: Un Nuevo Amigo al Banquete
2005: Nuestro Verdadero Companero
2004: La Hora Santa Heroica de una Nina
2003: Hagan Esto!
2002: Super-Abundancia de Misericordia

Otras Homilias

Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C

Sunday Homilies

Audio Files of Homilies

Podcasts of homilies (website of my niece, Sara)

Homilias Audio - Podcast - en Castellano

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