Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God,got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him.
He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus answered, “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” Jesus said to him, “One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you.” For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, “Not all of you are clean.”
After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.
When was the last time someone washed your feet? Having your feet washed is a deeply intimate gesture. Usually, it is only the very young, the very old, or the infirmed who allow another person to wash their feet. John’s Gospel reveals Peter’s initial reluctance to allow Jesus to wash his feet. Let’s not pretend it to be any other way—in his moment of hesitation, Peter is no different than you or me. We want to only allow others in on our parts beautiful and charming, not the grimy and besmirched. Jesus’ insistence about washing Peter’s feet reminds me that, before God, there is nothing I can hide. God knows me through and through. Through Jesus’ example, I am challenged not only to serve others in such humbling ways, but also to submit my entire self before God. Perhaps you will witness—or even, take part in—a foot washing ceremony during a Holy Thursday liturgy. As you encounter this most intimate human interaction, be reminded that God’s love for you does not stop at your beautiful margins. God’s love sanctifies the parts of you and me that are bruised and battered, the very things before most people we try to hide.
–Brian Gilmore teaches theology and is a campus minister at St. Louis U. High.
Hail our Savior’s glorious Body, which his Virgin Mother bore. Hail the Blood which shed for sinners, did a broken world restore. Hail the sacrament most holy, flesh and blood of Christ adore. Amen.
—Pange Lingua, tr. by James, Quinn, S.J.
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