“When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. ‘You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.'”
Today is Holy Thursday or Maundy Thursday. On this day over 2,000 years ago, the priesthood and the Holy Eucharist were instituted. Jesus being a Jew celebrated the Passover Seder meal to commemorate the events surrounding the Hebrews while under captivity in Egypt. However, He added to the ceremony by washing the feet of the disciples. He does this to clean the disciples before they can be one with Him. In those times, people wore sandals or walked barefoot. In the dusty environment, their feet would get dirty. It was customary at those times to wash one’s feet prior to entering a home. Some Asian cultures today have the custom of removing their footwear prior to entering the home.
The cleaning of the feet by Jesus is a symbol that Christ washes us from the external contaminants that touch our lives on a daily basis. Like the dust from the Earth that adhered to the feet of the disciples, so too the dirt of sin, immoral environments attach themselves to us today. The world today is filled with so much filth and corruption that eventually we will imitate it. This is called Mirroring in psychology. We often imitate the behavior around us, sometimes unconsciously. With the promotion of moral relativism and the idea that things are socially constructed, our society is imploding. They are removing the foundations that have kept society upright allowing us to progress as human beings.
It is no surprise that on the news we see shootings at schools, military bases, and on streets almost every other week. It is no surprise that we hear of children being killed by their own parents or sexually abused by teachers and others in positions of authority. Our society is losing its moral fabric and is imploding. The poison of moral relativism is indoctrinated into our youth in colleges. It is here where they learn the lies of social construction and the exaggerated views of human liberty which posits to trump the conscience as an invention of guilt promoting religions. These views are presented as “Humanism.” The late Christopher Hitchens often claimed to be a champion of Humanism, yet never did a thing to serve others. He wrote defamatory books and articles against Blessed Mother Teresa who cared for the poor and sick. His works were found to be fabricated due to his lack of sources. Unfortunately, some atheists believe his fabrications out of ignorance and fail to understand what real humanism is about.
Holy Thursday reminds us what true humanism is about- service to others. Christ washed the feet of His disciples and commanded them to do the same to others. The priesthood is about service to others. Our Holy Father Pope Francis is making this message loud and clear by the way he is living his Papacy. The priesthood is not a point on the ladder of success. It is not a place for careerists looking to rise the ranks and obtain power. It is not a place for men with mental problems to enters in order to “control” their issues. The priesthood is about ministering to others. It is about getting hands dirty by caring for others and not being ashamed to have the odor of their flock on them, as Pope Francis said in the last World Youth day in Brazil.
This call is not only for the ordained, but for those in the priesthood obtained in Baptism (CCC 783-786). Each one of us must serve one another not only among the flock, but outside of it as well. Christian charity is not exclusive towards other Christians only. It must be conferred on those outside of the Church as well who refuse to enter her or may have been ostracized from her for whatever reason. These are atheists, women, non-Christians, non-Catholics, those of the LGBT community and others. It bothers me when I read blogs from priests or hear priests complain that the Pope washed the feet of women or non-Catholics. They missed the point of the washing of the feet. Jesus never specified who had to be washed. He simply gave the disciples an example. This legalistic approach to Catholicism is what scares people away from Christ.
Christ gave us an example indeed. With a humble gesture of welcoming others, we can bring home those outside of the Church. The Washing of Feet should remind us of this. Just like the washing of the feet was necessary for the disciples to be part of Christ, so too does serving others make us one with Christ. This is why Blessed Teresa of Calcutta and other saints always stated that we serve Christ in others.