Feast of Holy Thursday

Apr 6, 2020 | Gospel Reflections

John 13:1-15

Feast Day Reflection by Sister Ellen Keane

James O’Connell, MD, founder of the Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program recalls his first assignment to the Pine Street Inn, a shelter for homeless men in Boston. He shared the following experience as a young doctor and his encounter with the head nurse Barbara McInnis.

“Her initial greeting was met with my youthful skepticism: ‘You will do just fine if you listen to us and do what we say. You’ll have to forget much of what you were taught in residency.’ It was the words that followed that would bring me to my knees: ‘Nothing changes in the life of a homeless person unless you slow down and take the time to earn trust and develop a lasting relationship.’

Virtually all visits to the Nurses’ Clinic began with a foot-soak. The waiting area had ten chairs, all occupied by shelter guests soaking their feet in buckets of warm water mixed with an antibacterial. This ritual was instituted by the nurses not only for comfort and hygiene, but also as a sign of service and respect. And what would become the moment of Eucharist for me was the moment Barbara informed me that my apprenticeship would begin with a couple months of learning the art and skill of soaking feet. She set aside my stethoscope and doctor bag. No medical questions, no chief complaints, no review of systems, no diagnosing. ‘Just tend to the feet and ask what else you can do to help.’”

…. The account of the last supper narrated in John’s Gospel given flesh in the here and now in that beautiful ritual of the washing of the feet and Christ’s invitation to give flesh to that ritual in our relationships with others. For it is all about relationship. A tender touch… a reaching out to those in need is timeless, especially during this time of pandemic …

As we experience Christ’s passion in our own realities during these uncertain days may the words from the heart of Christ speak to our hearts … “as I have done for you, may you in turn do for one another.”

John 13:1-5

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the House of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. He went in and said to her, “Rejoice, so highly favoured! The Lord is with you.” She was deeply disturbed by these words and asked herself what this greeting could mean, but the angel said to her. “Mary, do not be afraid; you have won God’s favour. Listen! You are to conceive and bear a son, and you must name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David; he will rule over the House of Jacob for ever and his reign will have no end.”

Mary said to the angel, “But how can this come about, since I am a virgin?” “The Holy Spirit will come upon you” the angel answered “and the power of the Most High will cover you with its shadow. And so the child will be holy and will be called Son of God. Know this too: your kinswoman Elizabeth has, in her old age, herself conceived a son, and she whom people called barren is now in her sixth month, for nothing is impossible to God.”

“I am the handmaid of the Lord,” said Mary “Let what you have said be done to me.” And the angel left her.

The Gospel of the Lord

Sr. Ellen Keane entered Notre Dame at Ipswich, MA in 1963. Her ministries have included teaching, administration, pastoral counseling, retreat work, spiritual direction and training of spiritual directors. In 1981, she was invited to join in Notre Dame’s founding and developing a girls’ secondary school in Kakamega, Kenya where she ministered for twelve years. Those years in Kenya were a time of awakening to the richness and diversity of God’s goodness, a homecoming of sorts that has remained with her. Sr. Ellen currently ministers at the Spirituality Center in Ipswich, MA.