Throughout my priestly life I have had seven different assignments and in each case I had to live in the quarters that were provided to me. In one of those assignments I lived in a very old house. Maybe similar to the farmhouse where Fr. Winters lived on this property many years ago. The features of this old house were that it was not only old but it had a third story walk up residence in and among the eaves of the house surrounded by the attic.
What was important about this living arrangement was ....by the way, did I tell you that I am deathly afraid of bats? One night when I was asleep in my bed I heard the fluttering of wings which I presumed to be a moth. However, this fluttering of wings was so powerful that it was moving the plastic rod that hangs down from the miniblinds that you turn to open the blinds. I realized that the wings of a moth could not produce such movement-it was a bat.
I quickly slithered off the bed onto the floor, pulled the comforter down off of the bed on top of myself, and then in rather "commando style" on my belly elbowed and kneed my way out of the room in a panic.
Of course, the next morning I pleaded with the pastor to take care of the bat problem. He called the exterminators and they quickly informed me that bats coming into the attic of the house during the winter months to prepare for childbearing is nothing easy to stop. I asked if they could plug up the openings through which the bats were entering. They informed me that when bats desiring to get into the house for the purpose of having their babies they can reduce themselves, morph themselves, as small as one tenth of their body mass-maybe the size of a cigarette or cigar and fit themselves through a dime-sized hole. That was some new and horrifying information for me and of course it did not make me very happy.
"Morph" it is a Greek word that means "shape or form". We are familiar with the term from our science classes - metamorphosis, the changing of shape or form.
Brothers and sisters this notion of morphing, of changing the shape or form or appearance, is central to our experience of this Easter mystery - this most solemn Triduum. Our God from the beginning of time has been driven by a singular mission or purpose and that is to be in communion, in love with us, his creatures. God formed humanity as the only creature "for himself alone". Throughout salvation history God has continually striven to "touch our humanity with eternity" - his love. God's method of reaching out to us has been emptying himself, throwing off his glory, assuming the lowly, humble, yes even human, accessible form - morphing into the effective form so that he might touch us and save us in love.
This is most beautifully revealed to us in our Christian Scriptures and especially our gospel text today in which Jesus assumes the shape or the form of a slave and washes the feet of his disciples. It is a most poignant example of this mission of our God of morphing so that humanity might be touched by eternal love and thus transformed itself into love alone.
Of course the most famous morphing of our God is in the womb of the Virgin Mary where he casts off his glory as the author of the Hebrews tells us, "in the fullness of time, he lowered himself and took on our human nature, he clothes himself in our humanity". He morphs into an effective agent. He abandoned his divine glory and embraced our humanity, humbling himself so that our human nature could be touched and given access to eternal love.
This mission, this means, this mode of saving us -this lowering himself, coming down, condescending as the theologians tell us, was so beautifully expressed in this past Sunday's, Palm Sunday's great Philippians Hymn, in which St. Paul writes "that he did not deem equality with God something to be grasp at rather he emptied himself taking the form of a slave being obedient even to death, death on a cross." This is the divine method, the mode, and the means of our salvation - God throwing off his glory and taking on, morphing into, "humble servant love". Kenosis is the word - to empty.
So in this Gospel today, as we commemorate this greatest night, this institution of the holy Eucharist, this commissioning of his disciples as priests, is just a most brilliant example of God's method of saving humanity - "humble service in love". Jesus stands up and takes off his garment, throws aside his "status" as teacher, master, Lord and he assumes the shape, or the form, he morphs into his preferred appearance as the humble servant in love.
Of course this gesture of washing feet, this servitude in humility and in love is just a foretaste of his greatest morphing into the sacrificial lamb on the cross. However, in the holy Eucharist which we commemorate on this most holy night, is yet another example of this morphing from greatness into the little, the least, the most accessible "he took bread, broke it , blessed it, and gave it to his disciples and said "this is now me". So that the bread that you eat and the wine that you drink is now no longer that lowly basic simple food but it is the accessible, attainable, ingestible, humble divine touch of eternal life - the salvation of our humanity.
Morpheus, as you probably know, is the Greek god of dreams, the maker of shapes and forms in our sleep. (I was discussing this at dinner with the Priests this evening and when I said the name Morpheus the youngers said - yea, he's the character from the movie Matrix. I had no idea of that) Morpheus comes to mind in this reflection of God morphing himself into accessible "humble service in love" because of his role as the dream maker. He reminds me that I have a dream and it is a dream about morphing- a dream for our parish ministry. Morphing like God.
Pope Francis has been teaching, especially in his great and first document to the church "The Joy of the Gospel", that we are called to be missionary disciples, a missionary church. What the holy father is indicating to us is that we must be always focused on this mission of God's I mentioned at the beginning which is to present His eternal love to the world through humble service. Emptying ourselves for the sake of eternal love. God's mission can change enslaved humanity into the freedom and joy of eternal life.
My dream is that we as a great Parish would be morphed into this God-shaped Mission as "humble servants for the sake of love" and that we would allow the eternal love of God to touch and change the human lives in our midst by this humble service. St. Albert is a great Parish, no doubt, but we are called to morph into a missionary parish. This would begin of course with our own lives being touched by eternal love here, like the bread and wine, and be turned, each of us and all of us, into humble missionary parishioners.
And what this dream of mine entails is that we would each be morphed into God's humble serving love in the world for just one person. We each know that brother-in-law, that sister-in-law, that neighbor, that father-in-law, that coworker, who would be so opened to the eternal touch of God's love IF it would come to them through your humble and tender concern. It is by our humble service in love that God intends to save the world one heart at a time. Each of us and all of us can be morphed into these effective, humble servants-missionary parishioners
Join me in considering this fundamental means or mode of God at work in the world - morphing the divine glory into humble service in love for the sake of changing human lives that are dead, empty and hopeless into Christian lives of communion in faith, hope, and love.
This is our calling, this is our opportunity, this is God's mission and purpose, this is the purpose of the church, and this could become our purpose-morphed into a missionary Parish. This is the commissioning of the disciples by Jesus at the Last Supper. Yes, this is about the sacramental priesthood - but it is more deeply about the Body of Christ, the life of the Church. We are to become the priestly missionaries off baptism - morphed into God's humble servants in love - missionaries to the world that the world might be touched and transformed from hopelessness and slaves of death into joyful servants of Christ in freedom and eternal life.
Help me in the days and months ahead to realize this dream, this morphing of our individual lives and our parish life, that we might become the very "humble servants for the sake of love" transforming the world one life at a time into a holy Communion of Christ's missionary disciples.