Acts 13:13-25; Psalm 89; John 13:16-20
The Gospel today happens after Jesus washes the feet of his Apostles where he tells them to wash each other’s feet. But what does this washing of the feet mean? Many Catholics interpret this as serving each other, serving the poor. While this is true, there is a deeper meaning to this, which Jesus gave when he came to wash Peter’s feet. Peter would not allow Jesus to wash his feet and Jesus said if I do not wash you, you shall have no part with me. Hearing this, Peter tells Jesus to wash his hands and head. Jesus replied the one who is washed needs only to have his feet washed because he is entirely clean. Then Jesus says And you are clean, but not all. The washing of the feet goes beyond literally serving others. It goes beyond just service. We clean others so they can make others clean, not only physically but spiritually: so others may share in the life Jesus gives.
This is why Jesus tells the Apostles today that they are not greater than him. They are his servants and messengers. He warned them not to go beyond his message. They are not Jesus so they need to see themselves as they are: servants, messengers. They are to cleanse others as Jesus did. They are to bring the message as Jesus did. Nothing more and nothing less.
We cannot add to the message of Jesus. We cannot do more than what Jesus wants us to do. Many have added to the message of Jesus, changing the message to their own opinions. Many go beyond what Jesus meant, making their ministry their master to the neglect of preaching the Gospel. The main purpose of Christians is to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ, so those who hear will believe and turn their hearts to him.
The First Reading shows us how Paul did this. He preached in the synagogue, not of his opinions, but of Jesus. Paul proclaimed Jesus as the promised Savior of Israel. In all his writings, we see this main thought. While Paul did write about serving the poor and serving others, all these are rooted in the fact that Jesus is the Lord and in him, salvation is found.
There is no other Savior, except Jesus Christ. Those who preach that we can save ourselves by good works alone preach a gospel different from the message of Jesus. While serving others is exemplary, it is NOT the way to salvation: Jesus is! Those who preach faith ALONE also preach a gospel different from the message of Jesus. Jesus said when he washed Peter’s feet that not everyone of them are clean even after Jesus washed them. Because even if Judas had his feet washed, he went out and betrayed Jesus! James also said, Faith without works is dead. Our faith or belief in Jesus is not enough. It has to bear fruit in service. We are saved by Jesus Christ when we believe him and bear fruit in good works.
Jesus said, Not everyone who calls me Lord, Lord will enter the kingdom of heaven. Only those who do the will of my Father. Calling Jesus is Lord, in this case, twice, does not guarantee salvation. It is only when we do the will of the Father that we are saved.
So yes, we are called to serve others. But this service should be based on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul clearly says: though we, or an angel from heaven, preach a gospel to you besides that which we have preached to you, let him be cursed. This statement is so important Paul repeats this.
1 John 4:1 tells us to test all spirits. So when we hear a message, we do not readily accept it. John tells us how to test the message: If anyone proclaims Jesus did not come in the flesh, that is the spirit of Antichrist. If anyone preaches salvation by works ALONE, that is the spirit of Antichrist. If anyone preaches salvation by faith ALONE, that is ALSO the spirit of Antichrist. Both deny the humanity of Christ. The first denies that Christ needed to die to save us from our sins. The second denies the need to make visible our faith in good works because Jesus became flesh to make visible the love of God through his signs.
Lord, I come to you. Let me realize I am your servant. Let me realize I am your messenger. May I preach Jesus Christ as the Only Savior through my good works. Give me wisdom to test all spirits, so I may reject false doctrines and accept only YOUR message. All I want is to follow you Lord. Show me your Truth Lord Jesus, that I may do the Father’s will.