IF I THEN, YOUR LORD AND TEACHER, HAVE WASHED YOUR FEET, YOU ALSO OUGHT TO WASH ONE ANOTHER’S FEET
(A biblical reflection on HOLY THURSDAY – 1 April 2021)
Gospel Reading: John 13:1-15
First Reading: Exodus 12:1-8,11-14; Psalms: Psalm 116:12-13,15-18; Second Reading: 1Corinthians 11:23-26
The Scripture Text
Now before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end. And during supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray Him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God, rose from supper, laid aside His garments, and girded Himself with a towel. Then He poured water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded. He came to Simon Peter; and Peter said to Him, “Lord, do You wash my feet?” Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not know now, but afterward you will understand.” Peter said to Him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part in Me.” Simon Peter said to Him, ‘Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” Jesus said to him, “He who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but he is clean all over; and you are clean, but not all of you.” For He knew who was to betray Him; that was why He said, “You are not all clean.”
When He had washed their feet, and taken His garments, and resumed His place, He said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call Me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. (John 13:1-15)
Today begins the great Easter Triduum, the three days when we relive by faith and liturgy the drama of our salvation. Today especially is a day filled with symbols and prophetic gestures that speak volumes about the mercy and love that flowed into our lives. As a matter of fact, Jesus’ whole life was an act of love. His incarnation, the hidden years in Nazareth, the days of fasting and temptation in the wilderness, the tiring Galilee journeys of preaching and healing – everything He did expressed His love. As John the Evangelist set out to describe the final events of Jesus’ life, he began his account with the simple statement that Jesus “loved His own who were in the world”, and “loved them to the end” (John 13:1). Here, on the eve of His death, we were given an intimate look into Jesus’ heart of love.
Picture Jesus kneeling on the hard, dirty floor and humbly washing the grubby, calloused feet of His disciples – even those of His betrayer, Judas Iscariot. How degrading for Him! How embarrassing for the disciples! Most of us would probably back away like Peter at the mere thought of letting the Lord do such thing. But Jesus’ love did not stop there. The next day He allowed Himself to be falsely accused, ridiculed, scourged, and executed – and He loved us to the very end. Yes, in the washing of His disciples’ feet, Jesus performed a humble service to demonstrate how much He loved His friends.
In his recounting of the way Jesus washed His disciples’ feet, John gives us an image of the entire Gospel message. The Son of God, perfect, pure, and holy, not only became a man but took on the role of a slave so that He could cleanse and refresh us. He humbled Himself so that we could be lifted up. He took the lowest position – to the point of death as a common criminal – so that we could become heirs of the kingdom of heaven. What hymn of praise could contain such love? How could we ever repay such a debt?
Today and every day, Jesus wants to do the same for us: to wash our feet. Jesus is always ready to care for our needs, heal our pains, and comfort us in our disappointments. He is eager to pick us up when we fall and give us guidance and direction when we ask. Therefore, we should never be afraid to let Jesus wash our feet. Whenever we allow Him to serve us, we will find ourselves energized to serve others, to follow the example He left us to wash one another’s feet (see John 13:14-15) and give our lives for one another, as He did.
Jesus washed His disciples’ feet at the “Last Supper”, the first celebration of the (Christian) Eucharist. In that particular Eucharist celebration (and millions of such celebrations to follow), Jesus went one step further by offering His disciples (including ourselves) His own body and blood. The washing of the disciples’ feet was a gesture pointed prophetically to the sacrifice of love He would make for us, this gesture actually invites us to participate in our redemption. On the other hand, by saying, “Take and eat, take and drink”, Jesus is calling us to embrace His death and resurrection. He is asking us to turn away from sin and let His life become our life. He leaves it up to us. Will we taste His goodness, or will we remain self-sufficient and isolated from His love during our days?
Tonight as we commemorate the “Last Supper”, and every time we celebrate Mass, Jesus comes to wash our feet. Whenever we eat His body and drink His blood, He longs to serve us so that when we are sent out at the end of Mass: “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord”; we have all the energy and grace we need.
Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, how Your love humble me! Nothing was too lowly for You to do! Help me, Lord Jesus, to serve as You served and to love as You love. Lord Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make our hearts like Yours. Amen.
Jakarta, 31 March 2021 [Wednesday in the Holy Week]
A Christian Pilgrim