The God of love is kneeling at our feet. Though we betray him, though it is the night. He meets us here and loves us into light. – Malcolm Guite
I have been thinking about the times I have had my feet washed. That has only been twice–the first time on a retreat and the second at my parish upon returning from Africa. That first time the leader of the team facilitating the weekend washed our feet and I found it to be a humbling and moving experience, surrounded by the richness of the retreat itself. The next time, I had been back on Canadian soil a couple of days. Everything that had happened in East Africa–the reality of poverty, the violence, the beauty, the relationships, the graces, each step of the journey–were etched into my feet. I brought it all to the basin. I think about it now and I want to weep. Christ himself had given me example of how to love without counting the cost and now to end the adventure, I would offer it all back in this stunning gesture.
Our feet prevent us from allowing this action to bless us sometimes. Because of this, I have lead for some groups a washing of the hands. This alternative is still quite moving for people. I have a memory of doing this for my housemates when I lived in Washington, DC. People took turns gently caressing and cleaning one another’s hands and then dried them off with a towel. This is an act of intimacy too. Who washes someone else other than a parent or a lover or a caregiver? When I was on pastoral parish council, I opened our first meeting one year with this ritual and talked about servant leadership. Each member was blessed by another. The pastor asked me every year to lead the handwashing until I stepped off the council, and then he invited me back to do it one more year with the new council members.
Watching a clip of the Pope washing and kissing the prisoners feet tonight, I wondered what they felt like inside as this holy man knelt in front of them. How did some of them say yes and how will it change their lives? What was it like for the apostles to have Love kneel at their feet and humble himself? When do we let ourselves be vulnerable enough to receive such an act? We are worthy of it. Certainly if Love can hang on a cross and die for us, Love can bend low and scrub our feet as a sign of our worthiness and as a lesson that we must both give and receive. Relationship that is one way is not healthy nor is it respectful. We are called to serve and Christ wants to ensure that we comprehend that no one is above another.
We will betray Jesus all of our lives despite our good intentions. Our Saviour will out-love us each and every day of our lives. We may feel undeserving of that Love but Christ washes it all away in that basin. Christ loves us and lays down his life for us. This night the darkness has the Light of Love aflame with example. May we always remember it.
What prevents you from having your feet washed?
How will you show this example of Love during the Triduum?
Footwasher, you stoop low and make yourself vulnerable. You lay aside honour and power along with your outer garment. Cleanse me from my pride, my false humility, my judgment, and all else that prevents me from understanding like Peter what you are trying to teach us. Guide me in the days ahead so that I may humbly wash other’s feet. Amen.