|Many anticipate the mass during Maundy Thursday because of an event that happens after the Homily. This is not ordinary – the washing of the feet. According to Rome, from the start of last year until now, it is not necessary to have the washing of the feet on Maundy Thursday because of the pandemic. But it can also be done as it is important. If you are familiar with the Maundy Thursday mass, you must know that the washing of the feet was done by the Lord for the twelve apostles. But He did something before He washed their feet. What was it?
The Gospel said – He removed His outer garments. He removed His outer garments. Such gesture was important not only because the garment might touch the ground. Removing the outer garment symbolized something. The outer garment is a garment of authority. The inner garment is a garment of necessity. It means that in removing His outer garment, He was removing that symbol of authority, that symbol of power, that symbol of knowledge. He removed them. To help you understand better, for example: If you are going to lift a balikbayan box while wearing a barong Tagalog (Filipino traditional formal attire), will you lift it right away? Wouldn’t you remove your barong tagalog first and in your t-shirt that is when you will lift the box. If you are wearing a suit and you were asked to lift a refrigerator or television or asked to push a stalled car. Wouldn’t you remove your jacket and maybe your necktie as well before you do what you have to do?
That is what the Lord did. He removed His outer garment because He was ready for the work of the Father. The outer garment is a garment of authority. It is a garment of power. What is He teaching us when He removed His outer garment?
If the outer garment symbolizes power and He removed it, it means that there is something more important than power.
What is more important than being on top? What is more important than being number one? What is more important than being powerful? What is more important than being a man of authority?
What is more important than that? Love.
Love is more important than authority. Love is more important than being on top. To be loving is more important than being number one. Because the number one may be arrogant. The number one may be hated. The number one may be a cheater. The number one may be a liar. The number one may be a killer. The number one may be feared. But if that number one is not loved, being number one is senseless and meaningless.
When the Lord removed His outer garment, He was teaching us a very important lesson in life. To be loving is more important than being powerful. Because in the sunset of our lives, what God will be asking those in power is not how many votes they won or how they scored in the survey. In the sunset of our lives, what the Lord will be asking is this – how much love did you pour into this world in your lifetime?
Second, the outer garment is worn by teachers. We often see this during graduation. The graduate is wearing formal attire but a toga will be worn on top of it. The toga, the academic gown, is a symbol of higher knowledge gained. Now, my dear brothers and sisters, when the Lord removed that, what was He saying? The outer garment is a sign that He was correct. It was a sign that He was right. It was a sign that He had the truth. When He removed that, what was He saying? Is there something more important than being correct? Is there something more important than being right? What else is more important than the knowledge that I now possess?
More important than being right is being loving. More important than being correct is being loving. More important than having knowledge is being loving. Because it is love that saves us from sin.
My dear brothers and sisters, if being correct is not accompanied by love, your being correct can be repugnant. If your being right is not accompanied by love, then it is only arrogance. If your being correct and learned is not accompanied by love…your being correct, your being learned will not bring you to heaven. What brings us to heaven is love.
Love is more powerful than authority. Love is more important than being correct. Not all who are right, not all who are correct, not all who are learned, will be saved. Because the true measure is not the level of your knowledge. The true measure is the depth of your love.
And the outer garment was worn again after the washing of the feet. I was thinking to myself, what did the apostles do after they had their feet washed? Maybe as many of us would do, maybe they said, “Thank you. Thank you very much. I feel refreshed.” Maybe they gave thanks. But what did the Lord say? He did not say, “You’re welcome.” He did not say, “You’re welcome.” He did not say, “Walang anuman.” (You’re welcome in Tagalog).
What did He say? “Do it also. Imitate me.”. So, what is more important than thank you? Imitation. What is more important than praise and flattery. Imitation. The truth is, if you give thanks but you did not imitate, your thanksgiving is not sincere. Because imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Imitation is the sincerest form of gratitude.
The washing of the feet has blessed us with many lessons. But there are also lessons to learn from the removal of the outer garment. Love is more important than power. Love is more important than being correct. And imitation is more important than thank you.
Thanks be to you Lord for removing your outer garment. Just as the Lord removed His outer garment, we must also prepare ourselves. To be naked of the power that we are holding to. Because to love is more important than to be powerful. When you say – I knew it! I knew that I am always right! When you laugh at the expense of others’ mistakes. The question there is – Where is the love? When you keep saying thank you to someone, but that person’s example is not followed.
That is the reason why we saved and purchased rice and fed those who are in need. That is the reason behind the feeding program held in the poor areas and neighboring sites. So that they will not need to come to the Cathedral. Where food is brought to those who are hungry. That is the reason why we must bring help to the displaced victims of fire in Arellano. That is the reason why you brought your offerings because Maundy Thursday would be forsaken if we did not imitate the very One who washed the apostles’ feet.
All of these are not original. None is original because the Lord had done it already. And because we want to thank the Lord, we are giving. We are sharing. We are feeding. We are giving drink to the thirsty. We are educating the ignorant with much love. Because love is more important than authority. Love is more important than being right. And imitation is more important than gratitude from the lips.