Holy Thursday Gospel reflection: Unite yourself with Christ

The Washing of the Feet mosaic in the St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City. Photo: Luis Santos/Shutterstock

“Master, are you going to wash my feet?” The shock in Peter’s question is clear. How could his Lord and master stoop so low? Paul answered clearly in last Sunday’s liturgy: ”He emptied himself, taking the form of a slave.”

“Father, are you going to wash my feet?” “Sister, brother, friend, are you going to wash my feet?” The question is still pertinent today, and sometimes there is as much resistance now as Peter manifested centuries ago.

Self-emptying isn’t relevant; it’s prophetic. Try it. Get down on your knees in front of someone you love. Or better still, in front of a complete stranger. Gently remove their shoes and socks. See the calluses, the manicured feet, the twisted joints of the one who suffers from arthritis. Take that foot into your hands. Splash warm water on it; feel the tension, the relaxation; and then look up into their eyes. Recognize the new intimacy. A bond has been forged between servant and served. Ritual breaks barriers that we struggle to maintain. Don’t expect it to be comfortable: challenging, perhaps; consoling, hopefully.

Foot washing unites us with the self-emptying Christ. It opens a door to the mystery of God’s self-giving that we celebrate during these three days. Whether foot washing, eucharistic self-giving, or self-surrender on the cross, each opens the door to the same mystery. God gives the divine self, in Jesus, for the life of the world.

— Bernadette Gasslein


Exodus 12:1–8, 11–14

Psalm 116:12–13, 15–16 BC, 17–18

1 Corinthians11:23–26

John 13:1–15

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