Still reeling from last night’s service where we recounted the passover, shared in the communion Christ offers us and washed feet.
I was asked to wash the feet of one of my favorite students and one of our parish trustees. CJ, a medical student, is one of my favorites (not that I play favorites) and it was the first time he took part in such a service. I was greatly honored to be able to kneel in front of him, look at him and smile while I washed and dried his feet.
The same is true for Phyllis, a sweet, dear woman, married to her beloved for over 50 years. She’ll be in heaven long before I will. I teased her afterwards. “Pedicure?” I asked. She smiled and said, “I made sure to get one this week already!” We shared a giggle and all was right with the world.
Marion and I do this ritual every year and it’s always enriching for us as a married couple. We wash feet because it’s hard, it’s vile, it seems like something that “proper” people wouldn’t want to do. I’m always moved when she washes my feet because I know that if she can do this for me…well, there’s not much more that she won’t do for me. And vice-versa.
Last year a group of Campus Ministers from the Vicariate got together and we experienced the triduum in an afternoon prayer service. Most of us are “working” these services…so we don’t get a chance to really sit and relax and just be part of the service. Washing feet was one of the things we did for one another and I got to wash my colleague Nathan’s feet. Afterwards we reflected on the experience and he touched me by saying:
“Mike looked at me a few times and I felt really loved and cared for. It was a really moving and touching experience.”
I think that’s the gift that my wife gave to me by being able to wash my feet and to allow me to wash hers. But it is also the gift that Christ gives to each one of us, through the apostles, through the church and to each and every one we meet.
We wash feet not merely because we are reenacting the moment of Christ doing this for his disciples, but we wash feet so that we might do “greater things than this.” We might be able to stand with the poor, the unborn, the hated, the destitute, the forgotten. We might be able to forgive what we thought was the unforgivable. We might be able to look beyond our hatred and horror and instead of remaining in lockstep anger, we can move into love…
Into washing feet.
“Do you understand what I have done for you?”
I pray today that each of us truly does.