Do You Realize What I Have Done For You?

Deacon Ray Dever

Today’s post is from guest contributor Ray Dever, who is the father of a transgender woman, a retired Catholic deacon from Tampa, Florida, and an occasional contributor to Bondings 2.0.

As the Lenten season ends tonight with the Mass commemorating and renewing the Last Supper, I can’t help but think back to my youth when I had several opportunities to be an altar server for the Triduum: the Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Vigil liturgies.  For an impressionable young teenager, the Holy Thursday experience in particular was almost overwhelming, a beautiful evening liturgy in our small-town parish church, packed with families and friends with whom I had grown up.

Although it was clear that Holy Thursday carried profound meaning for that community of faith, I’m sure that my understanding at the time was limited at best.  In the Gospel of John, after the description of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet , he asks them pointedly: “Do you realize what I have done for you?”  I probably couldn’t have mustered much of an answer to that question back then, but as Holy Thursdays come and go over the years, I hope that my understanding and my realization of the significance of what Jesus has done continues to grow.

One aspect of the Holy Thursday liturgy that I increasingly have found interesting is that the Gospel reading is from John, the only one of the four Gospels whose account of the Last Supper does not include the institution of the Eucharist. Instead, it includes the washing of the disciples’ feet and its connection to the Mandatum Novum that follows a few verses later, the “new commandment” to love one another as Jesus has loved us.  Although there clearly are elements in this passage of foreshadowing and symbolism related to the self-emptying love that will be found in the impending death of Jesus, the washing of the disciples’ feet stands alone in its message and its place of prominence on Holy Thursday. It would be difficult to find a more powerful expression of the Gospel message to love one another unconditionally than the image of Jesus taking the lowest place of the household servant as one of the final acts of his life on this earth.

The Gospel reading concludes with Jesus telling the disciples: “I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.”  Unfortunately, far too many individuals and groups of people do not experience church as a place where that foundational Last Supper example that Jesus calls us to follow is practiced. LGBTQ+ people and their allies often know this only too well. We are all aware that the polarization and conflict that surrounds us in society too often extends even to our communities of faith. Many people leave church because they feel judged and excluded simply because of who they are.

Their experience is not one of a humble, servant church on its knees like Jesus, but of a self-righteous church. Their experience is not one of acceptance of our commonly-held imperfections, our dirty feet, but of a lack of empathy and willingness to forgive. Their experience is not one of the unconditional welcome and hospitality shown by Jesus in the washing of the feet, but of exclusion from the very life of the faith community.

As we once again bring Lent to a close, let us take the opportunity to personally reflect on what Jesus has done for each and every one of us, regardless of what our experience of church has been. And as we begin our journey through the three days of the Triduum, let us hope and pray that the humble service of Jesus at the Last Supper and the profound love embodied in the Paschal Mystery will inspire all of us and our communities of faith to better embrace the life-changing Gospel message of inclusion and mercy.

Ray Dever, April 6, 2023

3 replies
  1. Duane Sherry
    Duane Sherry says:

    Deacon Dever,

    Like you, I also have an adult transgender daughter. Thank you for this inspirational post, and for all you’ve done for families such as ours.

    God bless you.

  2. Kathy Farrell
    Kathy Farrell says:

    Thank you, Ray, for your poignant reflection and for your wise voice for inclusion. Sorry we will miss you at Outreach in June but hope to see you soon. Triduum blessings and Easter joy!! Kathy

  3. Michele Marie Morek
    Michele Marie Morek says:

    This is lovely. Makes me even sadder about what the Kansas Legislature did today. Blessings on all of you in that ministry! Michele Morek at Global Sisters Report


Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *