By Allison Gingras
My first thought after my family’s invitation to have our feet washed during the Holy Thursday Liturgy — pedicure! Although I’d be a Catholic my entire life, this was to be my first Holy Thursday Mass. My ignorance was indeed my bliss. As I sat in one of the 12 chairs, facing the rather large congregation and looked up after kicking off my sandal (I certainly didn’t want my foot to get sweaty and stinky in a shoe), the honor of being asked, quickly turned to anxiety.
At that moment, I was not aware of the profound significance of reenacting Jesus’ humble act of bending down to wash the Apostles’ feet. Jesus’ profound message of, “For I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you,” (John 13:5) meant nothing to me. The initial discomfort quickly faded as I beamed with pride at my cute little family, sharply attired and my toes beautifully painted. I eagerly hoped all eyes on us saw the perfect family I was trying to project. Sadly, that was all I took away from that experience.
MY HOW TIMES CAN CHANGE
Fast-forward just five years and everything had changed. The simple invitation to a small group bible study entirely transformed my life. During that time studying the Word of God, I discovered He loved me enough to send HIS only son to die for my sins so that I may have eternal life. Jesus, that beloved Son, became my friend. Then came my family’s second invitation to participate in the Holy Thursday feet washing; my sons, pre-teens, declined but my husband and I accepted.
My chair was placed at the very end of the row, next to a young woman who uses a wheelchair. Celeste was at Mass every week with her Dad, who was single after his wife abandoned their little family. She smiled, cooed, and clapped throughout the Mass. Her delight at the privilege of coming to the table of the Lord always captured my attention and reminded me to delight in my partaking of this same privilege.
A MOMENT TO REMEMBER
As Father Henry moved down the line towards us, Celeste’s squeals grew in intensity. That was Jesus coming to meet her—coming to meet us. I slipped off my shoe, and then my sock, exposing my “desperately in need of a pedicure” toes. My heart, now in tune to the magnitude of this moment, overflowed with gratitude to my Father in Heaven. The tears welled and flowed. My head lowered, partly to shield the tears from those witnessing and somewhat to keep the moment from slipping away too fast. I, like Peter at the moment of the Transfiguration, wanted to remain there with my Lord forever.
Each Holy Thursday and Good Friday, we present the most amazing gift to transport ourselves back to those nights when the world changed forever. When the Word became flesh, dwelt among us, and then offered himself for the expatiation of our sins.
WEEK TWO LECTIO DIVINA
Included in each chapter of Walk in Her Sandals: Experiencing Christ’s Passion through the Eyes of Women is an opportunity to prayerfully read a scripture verse based on the week’s focus. The selection for Holy Thursday comes from John 13:1-20.
The Lectio Divina method consists of reading the Scripture passage once though, then reading it a second time a bit slower. On your third reading underline or note words or verses that seem to be speaking directly to you.
Next, contemplate the following:
What do I hear?
What does it mean?
What is Jesus saying to me?
WHAT MOVED ME
You are clean but not all of you
A servant is not greater than his Master
Blessed are you
MEANING AND MESSAGE
Who hasn’t wondered if Jesus knew his fate as he was entering Jerusalem? John’s words touched my heart as if they had been bold-faced. He knew Jesus knew.
Jesus is referring to Judas, as the one who is not clean. Am I the only one who feels they vacillate between being Peter (after the whole denial thing, of course) and being Judas? Even when I am more like Peter, I still get dirty. Jesus’ words remind me that although cleansed in my Baptism, there is a part of me that requires occasional cleansing—my soul. The Sacrament of Reconciliation is the “washing of the feet” for my soul. Although I cannot copy Jesus’ model of forgiving others in the same way a Priest can; I can pay this example forward by encouraging others to visit confession, especially during the Lenten season.
BLESSED ARE WE
As followers of Christ, we are presented many opportunities to recognize how truly blessed we are. Blessed was Mary who believed what was spoken to her would be fulfilled. Do we believe what has been revealed to us through the generosity of God in His Son, Jesus, will be fulfilled? Blessed are we willing to humble ourselves, follow Christ’s example, and serve other people.
Jesus, help me to follow your model of generosity by humbly serving at home, at work, and in the community. May your words, “a servant is not greater than his Master” guide my thoughts and action every day.
Wonderful article! You and I have Many similarities in our faith journey. We always visited 7 churches on holy Thursday and none of them included Mass. It wasn’t until I returned to the church that I heard about washing of feet. I have had my feet washed many times, but last year was different. One of our helper priests knelt down, gingerly picked up each foot, gently caressed it, poured water on it, ever so gently dried it off and then did the most amazing thing that brought tears to my eyes, he kissed my foot along with everyone else’s. I remember thinking that he washed my foot the way I helped to wash my mother’s body and my sister-in-law’s body after they had died. The respect and dignity was overwhelming. I hope to never forget that moment.
POWerful STUFF Bernadette, YOU never cease to amaze me with your faith stories!!