As the days of Lent draw to a close and we find ourselves within Holy Week, we prepare to enter into the holiest of days, the Easter Triduum. Looking back over the last 40 days, we can reflect on whether we have grown in virtue and holiness through our Lenten prayer, fasting, and almsgiving and look forward to the days ahead with hope and anticipation. We prepare and ready our hearts to experience the events which lead to the Passion and death of Our Lord, and, ultimately, to His glorious Resurrection.
On Holy Thursday we remember the Last Supper, when Jesus instituted the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, giving us His Body and Blood to nourish and strengthen us for our journey through life. Before doing this, however, He performed a task that was highly symbolic and meaningful for His disciples who were present, and for us today, the Washing of the Feet. When Jesus began to lovingly wash the disciples’ feet, His actions symbolized how He became a slave for us with His Incarnation. It also reminds us of the humiliating death He was about to undergo for our redemption. With this action, He set an example and asks us to do the same: to humble ourselves to wash each other’s feet.
What does following this command to wash each other’s feet look like? It means we live lives of love, service, forgiveness, and humility, and we reach out to help and sacrifice for one another. Jesus humbled Himself; He “lowered” himself to physically bend down, get on His knees, and wash the dirtiest part of His disciples’ bodies – their feet which had trudged through dirt and mud.
It starts with our attitudes. When we see someone less fortunate or down on their luck – the poor, handicapped, homeless, disabled – do we look down on them and think ourselves better, or do we see their dignity and value and acknowledge them as equals? Do we consider ourselves “better than” others, or do we, as Jesus did, humbly recognize the beauty and goodness in others, even those whom society sees as less or lower? Do we allow ourselves to serve the poor and unwanted when we have the opportunity? As St. Teresa of Kolkata so beautifully articulated, “Let us touch the dying, the poor, the lonely and the unwanted according to the graces we have received and let us not be ashamed or slow to do the humble work.”
To love requires that we give of ourselves and perform humble acts of service like Jesus did for His disciples before the Last Supper. As busy wives and mothers, it is not always within our power to actively minister to the poor as St. Teresa did. However, we often have to look no farther than our own homes for chances to help others. We are given countless opportunities to carry out the requirement of washing others’ feet through the simple acts of caring for our families – washing, cooking, cleaning, and taking time for our children. Simply reading them a story, bandaging a wound, or bringing them a cup of water is equal to bending down to serve and love them. Reflecting on our care for our families should give us hope, that if we lovingly serve our families, we are, in fact, washing their feet, carrying out the mandate to serve others, and uniting our actions with those of Jesus at the Last Supper.
As we observe Holy Thursday, we can reflect on the ways we have effectively washed each other’s feet this Lent as Jesus did, and how we can more humbly love and serve others in the future. We can meditate on how Jesus has washed our own feet and reflect on His great love for us. We can give thanks to Him for the gifts He gave us at the Last Supper: the Holy Eucharist, first and foremost, but also the loving example of service He gave us at that eventful meal. Inspired by His example and strengthened with the Bread of Life, we can more fully celebrate the holy days of the Triduum and experience the joy of the Resurrection on Easter Sunday.
Copyright 2020 Christina Mayeux