Staycation – Mario Francisco, SJ

John 13:1-15, Maundy Thursday

All gathered here could consider the next three days as staycation. We stayed to avoid traffic at expressways and airports as well as to save time and costs. Moving through everyday life 24/7, whether at work, school and even home, is tiring and burdensome. We all need rest of body and spirit, a hassle-free vacation; otherwise, we would be, as our lolas would say, “parang nauupos na kandila” or, translated into millennial speak, plain “low-bat.”

The Holy Thursday readings offer fitting images for our staycation. The first two—the Exodus account of Israel’s liberation and Passover meal, and Paul’s description of the Eucharist—focus on eating; John’s Gospel describes Jesus, Master and Teacher, washing of his disciples’ feet as servant, symbolic of his sacrifice on the Cross. These two seemingly unrelated rituals of eating and cleansing borrowed from everyday life take on a profound religious meaning. They make us aware of what we take in and what we take out during our pilgrimage.

First, as we speed through life’s highways, we need nourishment. Ano ang bumubusog at nagpapalakas sa atin? What feeds our hunger? More than just our favorite comfort food, we are energized by reassuring smiles and chatter around the family table, even if this is occasionally interrupted by text messages. We come to be refreshed by enduring friendships of colleagues or classmates, and even by unexpected acts of kindness from strangers along the way. We are strengthened when we speak for truth, face-to-face or in digital space like Facebook. We are consoled upon hearing that in some faraway country child refugees are taken in and cared for.

On this altar today, we feast on bread and wine that is the body and blood of Jesus offering himself to the Father and for us. Let us not only reverence this presence as the bread of life that satisfies our deepest desires. Let us also cherish all in our lives that is nourishing, lahat ng nagpapataba sa ating puso, as signs of the sustaining love God places on our table.

Second, as we navigate through life’s twists and turns, we pick up grime from dirt and pollution. Ano ang dapat hugasan sa atin? What do we need to take off? More than just what we think of as impurity, we need to be washed of all the junk food for body and spirit that we knowingly take or silently accept from others. We need to be cleansed of the “nega” spirits of pride, jealousy and revenge. We need to leave behind weapons of sharp words and deadly gunfire directed at the most vulnerable—our loved ones, those powerless and poor. We need to unload the baggage of having too much that make us forget what is truly central in our lives.

At our celebration today, we re-live our humble Lord’s washing of his disciples’ feet and hear his words, “I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.” Let us not only be grateful for the Lord’s continuing cleansing of us, his disciples, from all that separates us from others. Let us also in imitation of him wash each other’s feet. Like Peter’s, isn’t it also our greatest hunger to be cleansed by Jesus—“not just our feet but our hands and heads as well”—and to be, like Jesus, serving our sisters and brothers?

My dear friends in Christ, this Holy Thursday gives us time to reflect on what we nourish our lives with and what we need to empty it of. Remember, the word “vacation” comes from “to vacate,” meaning “to empty.” Let us then pray that we can empty ourselves like Jesus, so that God can truly full-fill us. On this, our spiritual staycation, stay with Jesus as he stays with us wherever 24/7.

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