“And during supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, ‘Lord, are you going to wash my feet?’ Jesus answered, ‘You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.’ Peter said to him, ‘You will never wash my feet.’ Jesus answered, ‘Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.’ Simon Peter said to him, ‘Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!’…After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, ‘Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them…” (Jn 13: 2-9, 12-17)
Yesterday in our church-services we remembered the sinful woman, who washed and anointed the feet of our Lord, showing not only humility but “great love.“ (Lk 7: 36-50) This is also an act of compassionate self-giving, both from the side of our Lord, Who allows His feet to be touched by this woman, and also from the side of the woman: Any “feet-washing“ is a compassionate act par excellence, because the feet of any human being carry that person’s entire weight; the feet are most burdened from any given person’s journey.
And today it is He, Jesus Himself, Who washes our feet, in this remarkable gesture of compassionate Self-giving, one day before His ultimate Self-giving on the Cross. Before He takes on all our darkness, even unto our death and our hell, He does not hesitate to dirty His hands and wash our feet, burdened as they are with whatever journey we have been making, at His side. And as our Lord tells Peter, we must allow Him to do that. Because we need to learn compassion – not only to offer it, but also to accept it, from one another and from Him. This was not, incidentally, a lesson Pilate was able to embrace, when Compassionate Love stood before him. Poor Pilate chose the very opposite of this lesson, when he washed his own hands, distancing himself from any compassion or involvement in another Man’s predicament, saying to the crowd: “It is your responsibility!“ (Mt 27: 24)
On this Holy and Great Thursday, let me embrace the lesson of Self-giving love offered to me by my Teacher and Lord. He not only allows for a sinful woman, like me, to wash His feet, but offers to do the same for me, when I let Him. Let me be open today, to offering and receiving compassion, as He willed us to do, one day before His crucifixion.