The Washing of the Feet

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Holy Thursday

John 13:1-15

Before the feast of Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to pass from this world to the Father. He loved his own in the world and he loved them to the end. The devil had already induced Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot, to hand him over. So, during supper, fully aware that the Father had put everything into his power and that he had come from God and was returning to God, he rose from supper and took off his outer garments. He took a towel and tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and dry them with the towel around his waist. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Master, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus answered and said to him, “What I am doing, you do not understand now, but you will understand later.” Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “Unless I wash you, you will have no inheritance with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Master, then not only my feet, but my hands and head as well.” Jesus said to him, “Whoever has bathed has no need except to have his feet washed, for he is clean all over; so you are clean, but not all.” For he knew who would betray him; for this reason, he said, “Not all of you are clean.” So when he had washed their feet [and] put his garments back on and reclined at table again, he said to them, “Do you realize what I have done for you? You call me ‘teacher’ and ‘master,’ and rightly so, for indeed I am. If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.”

Opening Prayer: Dear Jesus, help me to realize what you have done for me by washing the disciples’ feet. Help me to accept your love and then humbly pour that love out to others.

Encountering Christ:

  1. Let Jesus Wash Your Feet: Jesus washed his disciples’ feet as a sign of love and service, and as an outward sign of their cleansing. When Peter refused to let Christ wash his feet, Jesus said, “Unless I wash you, you will have no inheritance with me” (John 13:8). Let’s face it, our feet can sometimes be unpleasant. Here, Jesus calls us to be vulnerable and allow him to love us by washing our feet. Let us be humble so that we can show him the ugliest, most unpleasant parts of our lives. Let him gently hold, cleanse, and restore the parts of ourselves that we want to hide from the world. Let us offer him our shame, failures, and faults so that he can redeem them. If we are to be Jesus’s disciples, we must allow him to wash our feet.
  2. Imitating Christ: In Jesus’s time, washing people’s feet was usually a task for the lowliest of servants. Jesus exhorted his disciples to wash one another’s feet (John 13:14). We are called to imitate Christ and serve one another in the same way. May we seek to humbly serve others in Christ’s name. Let us search for the face of Christ in all people, so that when we serve others, we fulfill God’s command to love him by loving our neighbors: “whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40). If we are to be Jesus’s disciples, we must wash each others’ feet.
  3. Gracious Receptivity: If we are to wash one another’s feet, that means sometimes we will be the ones receiving the foot washing. Are we too prideful to allow others to minister to us? Let us seek to humble ourselves and allow others to help us in our daily struggles. May we give others the honor of serving Christ in us. We can practice this by doing small things, such as receiving compliments graciously, accepting others’ offers of help with gratitude, or asking friends to pray for us when we are in need. If we are to be Jesus’s disciples, we must allow others to wash our feet.

Conversing with Christ: Jesus, please wash my feet. I offer you my faults, failures, hurts, anxieties, and sins. Dear Lord, please redeem these parts of me. I am ashamed of them, but I trust in your tender mercy and love. Help me to wash other people’s feet through my humble service to them. Finally, grant me the humility to allow other people the honor of ministering to me when I am in need.

Resolution: Lord, today by your grace, I will take on humble or unpleasant tasks willingly out of love for you and others.

For Further Reflection: Read Pope Francis’s message to us as he washed prisoners’ feet during Holy Thursday Mass last year: Be Servants to One Another.

Written by Carey Boyzuck

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