At the start of Holy Week, we saw Mary of Bethany anointing Jesus' feet with perfumed oil, wiping them with her hair. Because the Anointed One knew where he was headed and why, he praised her for anticipating the day of his burial. At the place of the skull, we saw a crushing hammer blow fasten the feet which walked the waves onto the wood of the Cross. John and the Mary of Magdala then witnessed the Blood of the Lamb flowing down his legs to the ground through his toes--the very toes his Mother Mary had washed and counted years before.
Next we saw Joseph of Arimathea and the others hastily but reverently wrapping the lifeless body of Life itself, covering him from head-to-foot. "It is complete." Or is it?
As both Jesus and the Scriptures had mysteriously foretold regarding the third day, we suddenly see the world's only authentic Dead Man Walking. No mere Lazarus destined to return to the grave, the Risen Lord's wounded but glorified feet stride confidently from the tomb into the dew of the early dawn. Upon encountering him, Mary of Magdala embraces his feet and does him homage. Only his authoritative word loosens her grip: "Do not be afraid."
Throughout the octave of Easter--eight days celebrated as one--, we repeatedly see Jesus' transfigured footwork inspiring theirs: Mary, apostle to the Apostles, promptly runs back to the eleven; John and Peter fearlessly race to the empty tomb. After walking along with an apparent stranger, two of his disciples realize the scriptural truth that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and enter into his glory; when Jesus then definitively reveals himself in the breaking of the bread, they scurry back to Jerusalem to tell the others. "Were not our hearts burning within us?"
Having already kicked down the door of death, Christ passes into locked rooms in order to let his disciples touch him: "Look at my hands and my feet...Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have." Wiggling his toes in the sand, Christ playfully teases his fish-less fishers of men--"Children, have you caught anything to eat?"--, even as he prepares a fire to cook their impending miraculous catch. Then "Jesus came over and took the bread and gave it to them..."
Ah, the breaking of the bread: After weeks of walking with the Risen Lord and then witnessing his return to the Father and the subsequent descent of the Holy Spirit, the Apostles and disciples come to realize that, blessed and broken, the bread and the cup transport them spiritually back to the foot of the Cross. Then they see that, at the Last Supper, Jesus had offered in advance his interpretation of everything that would follow: "This is my body, broken for you."
With each celebration of the Eucharist, the disciples of Jesus find themselves not only nourished, but also commissioned: "As the Father has sent me, so I send you." After all, they see that the Master's complete gift of self is inextricably linked with the self-abasing work of a slave. Thus, fearless and filled with joy, they head out to become the world's footwashers.
P.S. Saints John XXIII and John Paul II, pray for us! (And check out Fr. Robert Barron's behind the scenes video footage of the canonizations at: http://wordfromrome.com/.)