Tonight as I bathed my little ones, I reflected on the scripture,
When Jesus washed the disciples’ feet, He told them, “I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you” (John 13:15).
What does it mean to follow Christ’s example in this particular verse? Are we literally called to wash someone else’s feet? Probably not. While many of us may wash little feet day after day, it is not the literal washing of the feet that Jesus is asking us to do, it is the spirit in which we do it, the spirit in which we serve each day those God places in our path. Christ’s selfless act of servitude presents us with a vivid blueprint of how we are called to live our lives.
Walking in sandals on the filthy roads of Israel in the first century made it imperative that feet be washed before sitting down to a communal meal. When Jesus rose from the table and began to wash the feet of the disciples, He was, to their great amazement, doing the work of the lowliest of servants. The humility Jesus expressed in this act with towel and basin foreshadowed His ultimate act of humility and love on the cross.
Three years ago, my precious daughter Marianna, at age 5, spent the entirety of Holy Week in the hospital. She was admitted on Palm Sunday for complications that arose from a medical condition she was struggling with at the time. Praise God, she was released late evening on Holy Saturday to celebrate the joy of the Resurrection with us on Easter Sunday.
Having my sweet little girl in the hospital so weak and sick during Holy Week that year offered me a meaningful way to unite my suffering with Our Lord’s. For the first several days she was there, we were unsure exactly what was triggering her serious symptoms. Consequently, there was a very real fear of what if – for many days. When Holy Thursday arrived, my husband, Troy, offered to stay with Marianna so I could attend Mass with our other children.
Troy was actually scheduled to get his feet washed during the service that year, but unfortunately had to cancel due to our circumstances. I vividly remember watching select parishioners get their feet washed that evening and thinking of how Troy was not physically having his feet washed in that moment, but he was truly living the symbolism of the act I was witnessing at Mass by serving our daughter at the hospital. Scripture came alive for me in a completely authentic way that year!
Christ’s example of washing His disciples’ feet demonstrates for us the value of serving our brothers and sisters with love and humility in a true spirit of service. It is doing the little things each day for our children, our spouse, our aging parent, our brother who is sick with cancer, our neighbor who just had surgery, our friend who needs an ear to listen – this is washing the feet of God’s people, this is following Christ’s example.
Whose feet are you being called to wash?
Copyright 2019 Kathleen M. Billings