"Whoever receives the one I send receives me ..." (John 13:20).
The "send" button in an email program ought to make us stop and think before we click on it. What flies from our computer out onto the World Wide Web takes on a life of its own, but is always traceable back to us. Our words might be forwarded, reaching a few or going viral to millions; they can be misinterpreted or altered, quoted in other emails to support ideas we do not hold, triggering an avalanche of responses from people we do not know and did not intend to contact.
Whatever the impact, large or small, the original message will bear our name even after it disappears into some virtual graveyard as deleted or perhaps saved in a profile stored for some unimaginable purpose.
This can make us paranoid, but it should also help us understand the power of the word as self expression. In an absolute sense, God is as good as the divine Word, an expression of the divine will that is the source of all existence, including ours. To say that Jesus is the Word of God is to say that Jesus is God. The one sent bears the full authority of the One sending.
In today's Gospel, Jesus has just washed his disciples feet. It is a gesture worth a thousand words, a lesson in humility and a call to service for those who would lead. It is the Word in action -- Jesus revealing who he is, and therefore who God is. God is the One who serves, who lovingly washes the feet of his creatures, including one who will betray him, another who will deny him, and all those who will abandon him in his hour of self-emptying love for them.
More astonishing, Jesus includes his disciples in this dynamic mission of revealing God in the world. Anyone who receives them will be receiving Jesus, and anyone who receives Jesus will receive God, the divine presence.
To return to the metaphor of how we use our devices today: If we have downloaded this program called God, we have agreed to the terms it carries, and it has entered our identity as fully as software distributed in every folder and operation we are capable of. How joyful we should be, and in awe, that everything we "send" today will be a source of grace to those who receive it, because we are nothing less than members of the body of Christ, the beloved children of God.