A New Commandment

I can't get over it.

Every year, she takes the towel and dries between my toes. She lifts my foot to her lips and kisses it, ever so gently.

Each Holy Thursday, our community follows a beautiful tradition of having our sisters in leadership wash the feet of the sisters whom they serve. One by one, as we come forward to sit in the first pew in our chapel, our Reverend Mother and her four councilors kneel, ready with pitchers of water, a basin and a towel.

When you think about it, it might seem strange that a community of women would do such a thing. It would be more natural for a family - spouses, parents, children - those joined by bonds of blood. It is strange that Jesus chose 12 different men, from such a variety of backgrounds, to whom He gave a new commandment of universal love. The love we find in Christian community transcends earthly bonds. It goes beyond what we can understand. "It was not you who chose Me, but I who chose you," Jesus says (John 15:16).

Every Triduum, it seems, as I enter into the liturgies of the Church with my sisters, I am made aware of my separation from my own blood family. My father and mother, brothers and sisters are thousands of miles away, celebrating the same liturgies. It is natural to miss them. It can be painful.

My sisters and I have left our families behind to answer the call of the Lord, just as His apostles did. We did not choose one another; we were chosen by the Lord for each other. He hand-picked our community, just as He hand-picked His apostles.

As I watched my sisters go up to have their feet washed, I wondered at the great work He accomplished in getting us here. I wondered at the kind of love that can embrace a stranger so that she becomes a sister in Christ. I wondered at the tenderness of such a love - a love that dries between the toes.

Later that evening, we celebrated the Mass of the Lord's Supper. In an even deeper way, we experienced the communion we find with one another in Jesus. In the Eucharist, all who receive Him and believe in Him are ONE in Him. At that last supper with his apostles, Jesus prayed to His Father "that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and You in Me" (John 17:22-23).

The Lord promised the hundredfold to those who gave up brothers and sisters, father and mother, for the sake of His name. He gives us that hundredfold in the Eucharist, where all our hearts meet. There every human and divine bond is sealed in His love.

As I received Him Thursday night, I was so consoled, knowing that, in some mysterious way, Jesus brings us all together - my family, my sisters, myself, and even the countless others He has chosen for his own. He has invited me here to love in this particular community and, by proxy, to love the whole world!

I know that when I wash my sister's feet tomorrow in the daily sacrifices of our life together in community, I wash the feet of each of my brothers and sisters in the Lord. "I give you a new commandment," Jesus says. "Love one another" (John 13:34).

- Sr. Mary Gemma, T.O.R.

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1 comment:

  1. We are apart but not really! We are forever together in the Eucharist. And yes your blood brothers, sisters, mother and father miss you too! :) ~~~Mrs. Ciarrone


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