“If I, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet, how much more should you wash each other’s feet?” –Jn 13 : 14
Foot washing would have been a pretty gross thing in Jesus’ time. Not only were standards of hygiene lower than they are today, but people walked everywhere. Their feet would be covered with dust, dirt, gravel, bits of plants and who knows what all else. This is a very servile job-lowly, something that most ordinary people would not even consider doing.
But here we have Jesus, the King of Kings, washing the feet of his disciples. The heart of Jesus is the very Heart of God-it is the glowing furnace of charity that burns with infinite love, infinite longing, infinite desire, infinite mercy, and infinite grace. But this is not cheap grace that is afforded. It comes through service and through sacrifice. Jesus gives himself away through a simple act of service.
I was once asked to take part in the foot washing at the Cathedral of my diocese. When we received instructions, the priest mentioned that a lot of people are concerned that their feet don’t smell like roses, and spend time preparing and making their feet all wonderful and pretty-like. He said that he wasn’t as concerned about this, but rather about the preparations that we made to clean our souls, and to be ready to understand and to receive this great gift of service.
The washing of feet is a small service that reminds us that this is how God loves-it is a crazy love that goes to extremes, even in simple acts. He cleanses the sole, in an effort to cleanse the soul.
Immediately after this, Christ institutes the Eucharist. This would be the memorial-that is, the re-presentation-of his total sacrifice of self for our salvation. By coming and dwelling with us bodily, he cleanses our soul. By entering in, he fills us with his graces, and drives our impurities away.
As we enter into the drama of the Sacred Paschal Triduum, it’s good for us to let Christ cleanse us, and remind ourselves that the most important thing that we do is mass, and the reception of the Holy Eucharist. By doing these things, we allow Christ to dwell within us, and with this as our impetus we can go out and serve our neighbor in love.