Thursday, March 24, 2016

Reflection: John 13:1-15

Holy Thursday - John 13:1-15

On this Holy Thursday we hear John’s account of the washing of the feet. John’s Gospel begins on a somber note. John states that Jesus knew that “his hour had come.” Jesus sensed that in the next few days, his life would be filled with betrayal, turmoil, pain and death. Yet, John writes that Jesus loved “his own” and he would love them until the very end.

Then Jesus does something unexpected. At the end of the Seder meal, Jesus gets up from the table and takes off his outer robe and pours water into a basin. Then Jesus kneels down and one by one, he washes the dirty and dusty feet of his disciples. When Jesus comes to Peter, Peter protests. He asks Jesus: “Do you truly intend to wash my feet?” Jesus’ response must have confused Peter. Jesus tells him that if he does not wash his feet, Peter will never have an inheritance with him. What a shock this must have been to Peter! Did Peter wonder what having his feet washed had to do with his inheritance?

In the past few years, we have experienced this reality happening in our world. Pope Francis strives to follow in Jesus’ footsteps. Pope Francis has broken the long-standing tradition of previous Popes who only had men participate in the foot washing on Holy Thursday. In 2013, Pope Francis traveled to a juvenile detention center to wash the feet of 12 young people. He shocked many more people by including two women and two Muslims in this ritual. In 2014, Pope Francis traveled to a care center for the elderly and disabled. He presided over their Holy Thursday service and he washed the feet of 12 participants. This past January, Pope Francis issued a decree that stated women and girls should be included in the foot-washing ceremony, not just men and boys, because "those participating in the ceremony should be representative of the entire community." This year, the pope plans to wash the feet of 12 refugees in Rome since the plight of immigrants and refugees has been in the forefront of the minds of many people.

What a sacred example of how we also have the opportunity to share Jesus’ love, concern and care for each and every person. Most likely, we will not wash someone’s feet today. However, on this Holy Thursday, how will we manifest Jesus’ love, concern and care for each person we meet? While we may not literally wash someone's feet, we can take the time to talk with someone who is lonely, help a neighbor, spend time at a soup kitchen or homeless shelter, or call a friend or relative who might need some cheering up.

The themes of Holy Thursday are love and service. Jesus was the true embodiment of both love and service. Today may we be mindful of sharing one small act of love as we celebrate the great gift of love that Jesus was and is!

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