The theme from today’s readings is: “if you understand this, blessed are you if you do it.” In all the Gospels, Jesus draws us to him; to hear, understand and accept his doctrine. Last Sunday we heard: "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” But he is drawing us not only to his words and voice, but to himself.

He wants us to cling with all our hearts and minds to him as a person, not just as a mighty teacher. Nowhere is this personal, heart-to-heart appeal of Christ more clearly expressed than in today’s Gospel passage. But to really appreciate this passage properly, we must place ourselves into this scene.

Jesus is now preparing his disciples for what is going to happen to him. He was intensifying his revelation of love. He has a sense of urgency and he calmly walks over to the large water jug and begins washing their feet. Only Peter breaks the silence, but he quickly quiets down. Jesus then says, “If you understand this, blessed are you if you do it[1].”

Jesus sends us a clear signal by washing his disciples’ feet. If we are willing to serve others with the same spirit of humility and hospitality, there will be a place at the eternal banquet for us as well. And indeed, there is something remarkably blessed about serving others. The Saints have echoed this blessing through their lives of self-giving love, and one of Pope Saint John Paul II’s foundational thoughts is that humanity finds itself by making a sincere gift of itself. We sing the words of Saint Francis’s prayer, “. . . for it is in giving that we receive.”

Pope Francis in his Apostolic Exhortation The Joy of the Gospel, says our Church must be a community of missionary disciples who take the first step, who are involved and supportive, who bear fruit and rejoice. Pope Francis continues: “we are an evangelizing community that knows that the Lord has loved us first[2], and therefore we can move forward, boldly take the initiative, go out to others, seek those who have fallen away, stand at the crossroads and welcome the outcast[3]. Such a community has an endless desire to show mercy, so let’s try harder to take the first step and to become involved.”

However, sometimes we miss the forest for the trees. We focus on the little things right in front of us, our everyday concerns and preoccupations, and lose sight of the big picture of God’s plan for our lives. This can be true even with our acts of faith. For example, we can be so focused on getting to Mass on Sunday and saying our prayers every morning that we lose sight of their significance or power. Or we can be so intent on getting God to answer a need that we fail to see how much he has already done for us and how much he promises to do for us if we stay close to him.

Today Saint Paul shows the people in Pisidia the big picture. He outlines how God’s plan has unfolded over thousands of years, and how it has culminated in the sending of Jesus as Savior. Everything God has promised, Paul proclaims, is coming true now in Christ.

But, what has God promised? That if we believe in his Son, we will have eternal life[4]. That all things work for our good[5]. That he will be with us forever, in this life and for all eternity[6]. This is the big picture—the “forest”—that we need to focus on in the midst of the “trees” of our everyday concerns and obligations. God keeps his promises! He has a plan for us!

No matter what the specific circumstances of your life may be, God’s overall vision for you never changes. Whatever hardships and suffering you may be experiencing now, however your life is unfolding, keep God’s love and his purposes in the forefront of your mind, and you’ll be more peaceful.

Through Jesus, God has fulfilled his promises. He loves us, he is willing to forgive us, and he invites us to spend all of eternity with him. This vision can inspire you when you rise in the morning and when you go to sleep at night. It can remain with you throughout the day. Everything else in your life fits into this plan—a plan not just for today or tomorrow but for all eternity!


[1] (John 13:17)

[2] (1 Jn 4:19)

[3] (Lk 14:23)

[4](John 5:24)

[5] (Romans 8:28)

[6] (Matthew 28:20)