Daily Reflection
April 13th, 2005

Joan Blandin Howard

Christian Spirituality Program
Click here for a photo of and information on this writer.
Holy Thursday
Evening Mass of the Lord's Supper
Exodus 12:1-8, 11-14
Psalm 116:12-13, 15-16bc, 17-18
1 Corinthians 11:23-26
John 13:1-15

Holy Thursday is one of the most sacred days in the Church year; yet we read of Jesus performing a seemingly menial task. Jesus washes the feet of his disciples.

This Lenten season we have walked with Jesus as his awareness of who he is comes into full focus. His public life has been about the gradual awareness of who he is as revealed by the Father. His public life is not essentially about the external signs of healing, compassion and friendship - they are the fruits of the relationship. Jesus is so much more than the signs and miracles He performs. Jesus is the sign, the symbol, the Son of the Father. He is God’s presence with man, with me. He is the “lamb…without blemish” referred to in Exodus. Jesus came to (know) “knew that his hour had come to pass from this world to the Father. He loved his own in the world and he loved them to the end.” “…fully aware …that he had come from God and was returning to God…” Jesus is who he is only in union with the Father. It is their relationship that allows Jesus to be who he is.

Jesus is the living unblemished relationship of himself and God. All of Jesus’ acts during his public life testify to his relationship with God and with us, his beloved ones.

Who washes whose feet?
When an infant is born she arrives lathered in white lanolin like cream. Parents anoint and gently massage the beloved newborn with this rich creamy natural oil. Counting fingers and toes we anoint our infants. Feet so tiny and soft, sensitive to our slightest touch captivate us. As tears of joy and gratitude filled our eyes, we anointed each other with the same lanolin of new life. Sacramental oil and a sacramental blessing.

The hospice patient’s feet are visibly mapped with red and blue veins under colorless filament thin skin. Callused toes and feet misshapen from years of advanced arthritis lie motionless. Tenderly, sacramentally, someone messages aged and unresponsive feet.

Old Man Matthew was born not only with one club foot, but his “good” foot was so malformed that in order to walk, he ties a coconut shell to the bottom of his foot. This gives him a rocking motion that propels him forward. This and his bamboo cane allow him to walk on very spindly legs. Pussy, smelly, open sores on both feet and up his legs are wrapped in banana leaves. Daily someone from the village tenderly soaks, massages and rewraps his grotesquely misshapen, badly abused feet and infected legs.

Jesus does not ask if he may wash his beloved friends’ feet. There is urgency about the act. “Unless I wash you, you will have no inheritance with me.” Jesus must do this. These are healthy well used feet! Jesus’ love for his disciples humbles them.

Tonight we take part in the memorial ritual of the washing of the feet. A potentially humbling experience for all concerned. Yet Jesus insists. Jesus’ love humbles me.

Am I called to wash another’s feet or to allow another to wash my feet? Can I allow the presence of Jesus to come that close?

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