The call to humble service
Read: John 13:1-17
This reading immediately takes me to Holy Thursday and the ritual of the Washing of the Feet. I realize, however, how easy it is for me to focus on the traditions each parish I’ve been at builds around this ritual and lose sight of the message. At times like this, I like to dig in a little deeper. Read over different commentaries for different insights.
So instead of seeing our priest and deacon or other members of the parish kneeling down at designated ‘stations’ to pour water over a clean foot, imagine what this was really like in Jesus’ time—’Sandals did little to keep dirt off the feet, and the roads were either a thick layer of dust or deep masses of mud. At the entrance to every Jewish home was a large pot of water to wash dirty feet. Normally, foot washing was the duty of the lowliest slave. When guests came, he had to go to the door and wash their feet—not a pleasant task. In fact, washing feet was probably his most abject duty, and only slaves performed it for others. Even the disciples of rabbis were not to wash the feet of their masters—that was uniquely the task of a slave.’
And, then to realize, how human the apostles (these fathers of the church, saints and martyrs!) were, just like us. How often do I find myself saying, ‘Well, so-and-so should take care of that. That’s not my job.” Just so for the apostles—’As Jesus and His disciples all arrived in the upper room, they found that there was no servant to wash their feet. Only days before, Jesus had said to the twelve, "Whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave" (Matthew 20:26-27). If they had given mind and heart to His teaching, one of the twelve would have washed the others' feet, or they would have mutually shared the task. It could have been a beautiful thing, but it never occurred to them because of their selfishness.’
And then, this final caveat for us—’In terms of sacrificing to serve others, there was never anything Jesus was unwilling to do. Why should we be different? Do you want to be blessedly fulfilled and happy? Develop a servant's heart... If Jesus can step down from a position of deity to become a man, and then further humble Himself to be a servant and wash the feet of twelve undeserving sinners, we ought to be willing to suffer any indignity to serve Him. That is true love, and true humility.”
To this, let the Church say ‘Amen!’
Joan ‘Ski’ Sieczkowski, Communications Coordinator