When you ask, even children, what strikes most during the Holy Thursday celebration they will tell, most certainly, it’s the washing of the feet. But what is this gesture about? What is it that Jesus is calling us to?
I will find my own way of washing the feet
Bible readings Exodus 12: 1-14 Psalm 116: 12-13, 15-18 1 Corinthians 11: 23-26 John 13: 1-15
That Holy Thursday evening!
The Gospel text, from John, takes care to give the context of that evening of the first Holy Thursday when Jesus shared the Last Supper with his disciples. “Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father.” So, here we are talking about the time of departure. It’s a moment filled with emotions of separation. Naturally, Jesus wants to leave a kind of remembrance to his disciples. But what’s the best thing to give them?
Jesus can’t find anything better than that which summaries his mission and the life he shared with his closest friends –the disciples. He is the image of the Father’s love which he manifested in giving his life for others –service. Love and service are marks of Jesus’ earthily life, and that’s the legacy he leaves behind. I just wonder if there would be many people going to the court of law claiming their share of it!
What about me?
What Jesus leaves to his disciples is not something bought from a Shopping mall; he gives something of his own life. Even though John has the tendency of giving us lengthy farewell discourse; here Jesus doesn’t give a long speech. He only acts, and then, in few simple words, explains the meaning of his act. Indeed, Jesus gives me something to think about!
I realise that as I go through life I leave marks which are a kind of legacy I’m leaving behind. But it’s not enough to leave marks, in fact, everyone does so; it’s important therefore to ask myself: what am I leaving behind? Am I someone who’s contributing a brick for constructing a world that is more humane? What legacy am I leaving behind? It’s a good question for meditation on this Holy Thursday.
Washing the feet
Let’s come back to this impressive, memorable gesture of the Holy Thursday –washing of the feet. No matter how distracted you may be during mass, it’s unlikely that you miss this act. After the homily, the priest removes the chasuble, puts on a servant’s loincloth, bends down, washes the feet and wipes them…. Captivating gesture!
The intention of Jesus wasn’t to establish a ritual to be repeated every Holy Thursday. He gave a résumé of his mission and of his life, and thus, recommended it to his disciples. Actually, he entrusted to them this mission of loving service, which is equally ours today.
So, it’s not about fidelity to washing the feet of 12 chosen persons; it’s about embracing Jesus’ attitude and action in the manner I interact with others. By washing of the feet Jesus proposes to us a model of life characterised by love and humble service. And so, I realise that washing of the feet is not an annual Holy Thursday event but rather a way of daily life.
Pray, therefore, that this Holy Thursday celebration may inspire us to go beyond a beautiful ritual!
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