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. (John 13:3-5 NRSV).
I sat in the pews on Maundy Thursday for many years during the washing of feet. I found it very difficult to allow myself to walk forward to have my feet washed and then wash another person’s feet. As the moment would approach, my stomach would get some butterflies. Perhaps I was embarrassed to have another person see what my feet looked like, or what they smelled like. Perhaps the other who washed them would pass judgement on me because of my feet.
In 2009 I decided to ignore the butterflies and the other thoughts that held me back. I walked forward and had my feet washed. After, I washed the feet of someone else. I found that all of those things that I had allowed to keep me from the experience vanished as the love of God seemed to embrace me and the other. All pretenses disappeared. Now, I participate in the washing of feet every year on Maundy Thursday.
As time has gone on for me, I have found that participating in the washing of feet on Maundy Thursday as a wonderful opportunity for healing and reconciliation. I have often washed the feet of someone that I might have had a clash with. Suddenly, whatever grudges I may have had, gave way to the healing and reconciliation delivered by God’s grace. I have found myself set free from many things that have held me back from growing closer to God through my relationships with others.
Washing the feet of another is a great act of humility. When Jesus washed the feet of His Disciples, he stooped as low as the Godhead in the Son of God could go. Their feet were probably muddy, calloused with dry cracked skin. Their feet had stories to tell of where each of the Disciples had been or what they did. Jesus was only concerned with serving each of them and drawing them closer to God and one another.
Today, Jesus invites all of us to contemplate this great mystery. The mystery of God who is present among us, who walks where we walk. God goes where we go. God loves us with every step we take. God is with us and listening to our stories as we walk with calloused, muddy and dry feet. God invites all of us to listen for just a little while to the stories of others as they walk their own paths.
John ends today’s Gospel Reading with the most wonderful words from Jesus.
Jesus said, ” I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35).
How is Jesus challenging you to love another as He has loved you?
Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB