Through Baptism, we are committed to living a life of service.

“Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him.” John 13:3‒5

Mosaic in Basilica di San Marco in Venice, “Christ Washing the Feet of His Disciples,” circa 1210As people gathered for meals coming in from dusty roads wearing sandals, it was courtesy on the part of the head of the household to have the lowest slave wash their feet. So when Jesus wrapped a towel around himself and kneeled to wash the feet of the disciples, they were shocked. It was a troubling sign for them. After the great welcome in Jerusalem at the beginning of the week, they were sure that Jesus would claim his rightly owned earthly crown; they were still arguing among themselves as to who was worthy to sit at his right and left hand.

Peter, as was usual in the Gospels, spoke for them all in his initial refusal to submit to Jesus’ act of humiliation. If this is behavior that Jesus submitted to himself, what would be his expectations of his followers? Jesus makes it clear that this is exactly what he is proposing for them. If they are unwilling to accept that role in their lives, he would have no part of them. Peter responds, in what is the Gospel of John’s allusion to Baptism, by asking Jesus to wash not only his feet, but his head and hands as well (John 13:8).

Jesus’ act is symbolic of the sacrificial Death he is anticipating. Through Baptism Jesus’ followers commit themselves to a life of service to one another. As he began to wash the disciples’ feet, Jesus told them that they would not fully understand what he was doing, but would later understand (John 13:7). As they had not yet witnessed Jesus’ Death, Resurrection, and Ascension, the disciples would not understand the full implications of what Jesus was teaching. There is less excuse for us. As baptized Christians who hear John’s Gospel every year, we know that we are called to a life of service to others.

Image: Mosaic in Basilica di San Marco in Venice, Christ Washing the Feet of His Disciples
Pope Francis
“And with us too, don’t we have to wash each other’s feet day after day? But what does this mean? That all of us must help one another. Sometimes I am angry with someone or other . . . but . . . let it go, let it go, and if he or she asks you a favor, do it.”
Homily at the Mass of the Last Supper, 28 March 2013

Lord, help us as we pray to receive the grace to love one another as you have loved us.
Lenten Moments of Mercy