The word became flesh and dwelt among us.¹ I am the vine, you are the branches.² I am the bread of life, he who comes to me will not hunger, he who believes in me will not thirst.³ Take and eat, this is my body. This is my blood of the covenant.¹ Whoever drinks of the water I shall give him shall never thirst. ² Now you are Christ’s body.³ His body, which is the Church.¹
Jesus is the Word. He is God. He is the bread of life, cup of life we drink. The Church is his body. We are the Church. This is the mystery.
On Holy Thursday, Catholics celebrate the Last Supper, which is basically comprised of two celebrations: one, the Eucharist where Jesus broke the bread and gave it us to eat. Christ said that the bread was his body, and asked us to do this in remembrance of him. And as Catholics we do that and celebrate that mystery described above every Sunday.
The other thing we do on Holy Thursday, I’m not a big fan of. We wash each other’s feet. We do it because Jesus did:
Then He poured water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded….”If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15“For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you.” John 13: 5;14-15.
Basically (as far as my limited understanding goes) it was Jesus’ way of modeling service to us. He humbled himself, and we should do the same.
But I gotta admit, it’s awkward. A lot of churches will just have a representative 12 people do it. But no, my church has everyone do it, both washing and being washed. It’s not the washing of other people’s feet I mind, so much as having someone wash my own. I don’t really get it. I don’t sit there and think “oh I am feeling so served right now.” I’m sure foot washing was a much different gesture 2,000 years ago, but the symbolism is a little lost on me. I try hard to focus and think about loving God and loving others, but the whole time I’m just thinking “ahh you’re touching my feet. Do they smell? Ugh. How long should I scrub? Should I clean clip their toenails while I’m here? (just kidding!)”
The truth is, service is awkward. It’s awkward both to give and to receive. Peter didn’t want his feet washed either. We like to think that we’re good, that we don’t need help. It’s embarrassing; it’s awkward. This semester I had to enroll at disability services, and not gonna lie, I was a little mortified. I hated going to my professor and telling him I wasn’t on top of my game and needed special considerations. I want to be the best of the best. I don’t want help.
It’s equally awkward to help someone. Dancing around, trying to figure out how to say “do you need help with that?” Should you ask the person in the wheelchair if they need help with the door, or is that offensive? Should you offer up your seat to an expectant woman? What if you have made that most-feared mistake and it turns out she isn’t pregnant? And then there’s the bigger stuff. I’m sure no one who has ever set in on an intervention has found them to be anything less than awkward.
So maybe the original symbolism of the beauty of foot washing is lost on me. But it’s not irrelevant now. Maybe Jesus is asking us to get over our awkwardness, to help each others and ask for help.
That’s what I’ll try to remember tonight, when I feel awkward washing feet and having my feet washed. That I need to just get over myself, get over the awkwardness, and just try to love and be loved.