Christ my Savior,
Thousands of years ago on this evening – Holy Thursday – you washed the feet of your disciples, exemplifying true humility and service, and that through these acts, one may come to know and follow You. Lord, may I relentlessly serve you by serving others through the utilization of the spiritual gifts you’ve given me. I ask for your strength Lord to serve others, especially when it’s hardest. May you continue to transform my heart into a true servant’s heart so that I can give myself selflessly to your people. What do you want of me Lord? Where do you want me to serve you? How shall I sing your praises? May I forgive others the way you’ve forgiven me, and may I always adhere to your greatest commandment: to love others as you love me. All this I ask in your most precious name, Amen.
Happy Holy Thursday!
Holy Land / Jerusalem
Holy Thursday Reflection – Foot Washing
Tonight we celebrate the gift of the Eucharist. And, tonight, we also celebrate the gift of ministry. We are not only “the gifted” tonight. We are given a lesson in how we are to give ourselves to and for each other.
The simplicity of the Gospel story works in tandem with the first two readings. The first reading sets the scene of the Passover and the second reading resonates with the familiar words of the Eucharist. Given that backdrop we are free to enjoy John’s account of that special night as Jesus summarizes by his actions all that he had taught them in the previous three years.
This gospel has a dramatic feel to it. John doesn’t tell us that Jesus gave us his body and blood and then, after the supper, washed his disciples’ feet. John, unlike the other gospel writers, doesn’t mention the gift of the Eucharist at all! This is not an omission. This story of the washing of the feet IS the story of the Eucharist. They are identical for John. This story explains the Eucharist. It tells us what it really means to be Eucharist for one another. By washing his disciples’ feet, Jesus is saying by his actions, “This is my body; This is my blood” given for you. And, his words say, “I have given you a model to follow, so that, as I have done for you, you should also do.” The foot washing is (1)a reminder of the meaning of love, (2)a re-focusing of our call to discipleship, and (3)a powerful symbol of the meaning of Eucharist.
This is why on this special night we act out the Gospel. We need to act it out, to feel it deeply in our hearts, to let the experience of seeing it happen, touch us at our core, so we can understand the breadth of its meaning. At the time of surrendering his life, Jesus washes the feet of his friends. By being broken and given for us in the Eucharist, Jesus is giving us an example and a commandment for how we are to be broken and given for each other, by washing each other’s feet.
In our day, perhaps we need to look at foot washing a little differently since it isn’t a common practice for us. It is not easy to have our feet washed or tended to. They probably have corns and callouses or bunions and they probably smell. They are not always very attractive. It is a part of our bodies that we rarely let others touch. We rarely wash the feet of another. Jesus’ footwashing is a powerful drama representing the power of love. It’s not easy to let others love us. I’ll let you love certain parts of me, but rarely will I let anyone close to the “smelliest”, most vulnerable or most unattractive parts of me. And, when I love you, I often will love you when you are most presentable or attractive. When you put me off or when you are not at your best, I don’t do so well at loving. But the lesson we learn in the foot washingis that Jesus loves us unconditionally. He loves us, not because we deserve it. He loves us because we need loving and he knows it. He tells us to love the same way.
Tonight we are given his Eucharistic self-sacrificing example of how to humbly love each other. As he washes the feet of his friends he teaches us: “Love each other this completely, this freely, loving the most unattractive parts of each other, where love is needed most.” Be a servant to one another.
Peter, who is so like us, objects because he doesn’t want Jesus washing his dirty feet and perhaps we don’t want our awkward ugly feet washed. Jesus doesn’t ask if he MAY wash Peter’s feet. There is urgency about the act.“Unless I wash you”, he says, “you will have no inheritance with me.” And what is the inheritanceJesus speaks of – it is that deep and giving love. Jesus must do this for Peter. Jesus tells Peter—and us—that we must have our feet washed; we must let Jesus be servant if we are ever to understand what we are called to be. Tonight, like Peter, we must choose to agree to this action of love, to open our hearts. We don’t want to hold back, hold away from Jesus those unpresentable parts inside of us. Like Peter we want to say “Wash all of me with your love.” Fill our hearts. Push out all of the fear and anxiety, all of the anger and frustration, all the pettiness and selfishness. Fill us tonight, Lord, so that we might learn how to love others this selflessly, to kneel before others in such humility.
On this special night, Jesus, on his knees before his friends, did the work of a servant – here is where we see the true image of Christ. May others see that image in us “as we do what he has done for us”.