What shall I return to the Lord for all his bounty to me? (Psalm 116:12)
This question from today’s Psalm seems particularly well-suited to the season of Lent, even more so as we approach Christ’s betrayal and death. The psalmist, though writing centuries before Jesus’ birth, captures the deep-seated human desire to return to God out of the bounty of God’s blessings — a desire that haunts this season of penitence. Thus, we take on disciplines of “giving something up for Lent” as spiritual sacrifices before God.
In today’s reading from Exodus, God instructs Moses and Aaron in the keeping of the Passover for the generations to come. Is the commemoration of God’s saving act done to make the Israelites deserving of their liberation? Surely not! Deliverance from the hands of the Egyptians had already been inexorably worked.
So why does God establish the yearly feast? Why does the psalmist seek a worthy offering that cannot be had? Why do Christians keep our fast and the peculiar traditions of this Holy Thursday — especially the washing of the feet?
In a small book of devotions, titled The Ignatian Workout for Lent, author Tim Muldoon explains a central tenet of the spirituality of St. Ignatius of Loyola: “For him spiritual exercises were not about earning God’s love; they were about removing the detours that distract us from knowing it intimately.”
As we mark this Maundy Thursday, whether you take part in foot-washing or not, consider this baffling act by Jesus at the Last Supper, not through the lens of sacrifice, but rather as Christ’s penultimate attempt to remove the detours that distract us from knowing Him intimately. Let us pray as the psalmist goes on to do: “O Lord, I am your servant . . . . You have loosed my bonds.” Amen!
Appointed readings for today: Exodus 12:1-14, Psalm 116:1, 10-17, John 13:1-17, 31-35