SACATON — Jesus’ humility was on full display with the act of washing the Twelve Apostles’ feet during the Last Supper, said Auxiliary Bishop Eduardo A. Neares at the Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper April 18 at St. Anne Native American Mission on the Gila River Indian Reservation.
“Can you imagine the Son of God kneeling before a human? That, my friends, is humility. He emptied Himself of all the majesty.”
The Holy Thursday Mass launches the Easter Triduum, which continues through Good Friday, Holy Saturday and climaxing Easter Sunday, when Jesus rose from the dead ushering in the most joyful day on the Christian calendar. The Last Supper is also when Jesus instituted the Mass and the Apostles first received Him in the Blessed Sacrament.
During the Mass, a member of the clergy washes the feet of several members of the congregation, re-enacting Jesus’ act of love and instruction as He prepared for His Passion and Crucifixion. The Mass also concludes with a procession to the church’s Altar of Repose, where the consecrated host is moved away from the main altar for the duration of the Triduum.
In his homily, Bishop Nevares noted St. Augustine considered humility the greatest of all virtues. “Because [it] will most align us with Jesus Christ,” he said, quoting Augustine.
“During these Holy Days, may we reflect on and try to imitate the humility of God in our daily lives,” the bishop added.
He then removed his outer vestments, knelt before the feet of three St. Anne parishioners, and gently held each of their lower limbs over a basin of water while drying it off with a towel.
“It was very humbling,” said Dorothy Sunna, one of the three parishioners whose feet were washed. “I felt Jesus working through the Bishop.”
“I thought of Jesus doing the same thing,” explained Eugenia Apkaw, 84, another of the parishioners whose feet were washed. She said that the re-enactment enabled her to more closely identify with the love of Christ. “I imagined what it would be like … Jesus washing your feet. It was a blessed feeling,” she said.
Jaysun Enos, chief of St. Anne, expressed his appreciation the presence of one of the diocese’s shepherds visiting the reservation during the holiest time of the Church’s calendar. “It was very moving, especially to have the bishop here. I think these people were touched by the message,” he said following the Mass.
St. Anne is one of nine active Native American missions in the Diocese of Phoenix, all administered by the Franciscan Friars of the Holy Spirit, the religious community based at St. John the Baptist Parish in Laveen with a charism to serve the Native population. Their newest postulant, Br. David Beale, accompanied the bishop to St. Anne and described the re-enactment as an expression of love.
“The washing symbolizes that we are here to serve the people of the reservation. It’s beautiful to see,” said Br. David. “There is something powerful in this. These people are looking for love. We are trying to impart they are loved by God.”