Date: Sunday, May 19, 2019
Our parish history book club is reading “The Best Land Under Heaven: The Donner Party in the Age of Manifest Destiny by Michael Wallis. It is the true story of the Donner party wagon train on the California trail who find themselves unable to cross the Sierra Nevada mountains when winter snows begin. It is a story of survival under the harshest conditions. What will they do to survive? What would we do?
Jesus is aware that the end is near. After repeated controversies with authorities in Jerusalem, he goes into seclusion with his disciples. They gather for a “Passover” like dinner. Removing his outer garment, taking a towel and basin of water Jesus washes their feet. He sets an example. Jesus forewarns them of what is to come. He will be denied, betrayed and abandoned. We might expect Jesus to express his disappointment/regret or lashing out at the disciples for their cowardice/disloyalty or rally his followers to fight. None of this! Jesus speaks to them of love.
Jesus talks of the love he shares with the Father; the love he has for his disciples; and the love they must have for one another. He acknowledges the world’s hatred and hostility but assures them of the coming Advocate. Jesus talks about being “glorified.” God’s glory is revealed when Jesus performs his mighty “signs” e.g. when he changes water into wine at Cana, the disciples believe in him and God’s glory is revealed. God’s glory will be revealed in Jesus now. His “hour” has come with his imminent death, resurrection, return to the Father and sending of the Holy Spirit. God’s glory will be revealed in/through the love the disciples have for one another.
Love is key to discipleship. Love draws us closer to God and neighbor. For all of us who live as Christ, death is not an impassible mountain range of doom but an invitation to a new life of eternal glory. “The One who sat on the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new.’” (Book of Revelation 21:5a)