The disciples journey to Jerusalem with their Master one final time to celebrate the Passover. Not coincidentally, they will commemorate the miraculous deliverance of God’s people from slavery in Egypt. They do not understand that a new Passover is unfolding in which God will defeat the power of sin and ransom those enslaved to it.
Jesus knows it is His last night on earth. What does He want to tell us?
"[H]e loved them to the end" (John 13:1).
Jesus wants us to see what infinite Love looks like. The full extent of His love is symbolically anticipated as He takes the position of a slave and washes the disciples’ feet.
Saint Cyril of Alexandria gives us this beautiful image of Divine Love: "What could be stranger than this? What more awesome? He Who is clothed with light as with a garment is girded with a towel. . . . He before Whom every knee must bow now kneels before His servants" (Cyril of Alexandria, Patrologia Graeca vol. 77, Homily 10).
In a few short hours, the Eternal Life will become obedient to death, proclaim: "it is finished," and complete His Father’s work of salvation. Do we truly know how much He loves us?
"Unless I wash you, you will have no inheritance with me" (John 13:8).
This is an allusion to the need for Baptism and the sacramental cleansing that joins us to Christ and His Church. But Jesus is also revealing the disposition of our hearts. He wants us to humbly acknowledge that our feet are dirty, that we need the purifying gift of the Cross. Is pride or shame keeping us from fully yielding to Jesus’ transforming work in our lives?
"You ought to wash one another’s feet" (John 13:14).
The foot washing represents Jesus’ whole life as a humble servant, culminating with His self-gift on the Cross. It is not something we simply admire, but Jesus commands us to emulate the same humility and sacrificial love toward one another—to love one another as He has loved us (John 13:34). Today, whose feet is Jesus calling you to wash?
Do we truly know how much He loves us? // @DebbieHerbeckClick to tweet
Maybe tonight, wash the feet of those you're sheltering-in-place with, or schedule a Zoom call or FaceTime with a friend to read the readings aloud with one another.
Debra Herbeck, a Jewish convert to the Church, has worked extensively in youth and women’s ministry. She has directed Pine Hills Girls Camp for the past 33 years, is the founder and Director of the Be Love Revolution, and also helps lead a ministry called i.d.916. She has written a number of books that can be found here. Debra and her husband Peter live in Ann Arbor, Michigan and are the parents of four children and seven adorable grandchildren. She is a contributing author to our Works of Mercy Study: Misericordia.