Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end”(John 13:1). God loves his creature, man; he even loves him in his fall and does not leave him to himself. He loves him to the end. He is impelled with his love to the very end, to the extreme: He came down from his divine glory.
He cast aside the raiment of his divine glory and put on the garb of a slave. He came down to the extreme lowliness of our fall. He kneels before us and carries out for us the service of a slave: He washes our dirty feet so that we might be admitted to God’s banquet and be made worthy to take our place at his table – something that on our own we neither could nor would ever be able to do.
God is not a remote God, too distant or too great to be bothered with our trifles. Since God is great, he can also be concerned with small things. Since he is great, the soul of man, the same man, created through eternal love, is not a small thing but great, and worthy of God’s love.
God’s holiness is not merely an incandescent power before which we are obliged to withdraw, terrified. It is a power of love, and therefore a purifying and healing power. God descends and becomes a slave; he washes our feet so that we may come to his table. In this, the entire mystery of Jesus Christ is expressed. In this, what redemption means becomes visible. The basin in which he washes us is his love, ready to face death. Only love has that purifying power, which washes the grime from us and elevates us to God’s heights.
The basin that purifies us is God himself, who gives himself to us without reserve – to the very depths of his suffering and his death. He is ceaselessly this love that cleanses us; in the sacraments of purification – Baptism and the Sacrament of Penance – he is continually on his knees at our feet and carries out for us the service of a slave, the service of purification, making us capable of God. His love is inexhaustible; it truly goes to the very end.
– Homily, Mass of the Lord’s Supper, Holy Thursday, April 13, 2006