“THE WASHING OF THE FEET”
What does all this mean to me? The washing of the feet -for an Asian person like me- has always been an important act of the Holy Week, an almost unforgettable and indispensable ritual in the parish of my birth as in the universal Church. I had no idea of European customs or cultural interpretations of everything that the act of “washing” expresses, because in Asia it is “kissing the hand” as an act of love, respect, and recognition of the person we cherish, accept, and consider worthy of our affection, even our obedience.
In my childhood, Holy Thursday is celebrated dramatically, with more lights and colors stand out in the celebrant’s robes and in the “12 selected” apostles for mass, with beautiful altars, deep and sentimental songs. I think I did not understand the liturgy for many years, and it is true that this has to be something more to everything that a Holy Thursday in the Church entails. This misunderstanding represents a great danger for anything important, such as giving the respect and love that the Eucharist invites us.
In John 13:1-15, we find the same confusion that Peter had, feeling unworthy about the Master washing the feet of his disciples… what a profound gesture and such an act of love for the “little ones” of that society and the time! At the Eucharist, the Archbishop of Madrid focused on the involvement of the feet… “Which sustains our body”, which keeps our being on the path of life.
For me, it invites me to see more than I heard and to read about this act of Jesus with his disciples. It leads me to a way of asking more: what does the washing of the Lord at the Last Supper mean to me? This has nothing to do with the status of “Master-disciple”, for me, it is the gesture of affection that breaks walls and collapses boundaries between people. That is, a gesture of intimacy, appreciation, kindness, forgiveness, and tenderness that only God is able to penetrate into us. It is a door to which words are left, that the silent gesture is truly the cure for our wounds, that touching with affection penetrates the soul. It makes us return to the caresses of God in solitude, in difficult moments that we cry out in silence in front of the sanctuary, that we seek help in the night of our faith… it is there, it is when we find answers to our illusions, our confusions of life and times when men are unable to reach or understand. God is always the One who looks for us and there are times when we look for him in times that are difficult to give reason, to feel close in silence, in our hearts, despite the uncertainty and incomprehension.
Our human experience gives us an idea of how to interpret this great gesture of love by Jesus to his disciples. We all know it’s about having a friend and saying goodbye to him or saying goodbye to us. Everything involved in the game marks an important point in our own history. Returning to the gesture of the bathroom, Jesus says goodbye to his friends… For Jesus as “one of us”, the fact of wrapping a towel, kneeling, washing his feet can give a feeling of gratitude for having been with Him until that moment, believing in Him and following Him along the paths. We can trust that Jesus knew them when those feet walked and worked with Him, both in the mountains of prayer and in public life. It is your joy to have friends, to share your joy and your moments of judgment at the end.
We see that Jesus, in a personal way, touched your feet as they are, remembered with affectionate gestures for each of your friends, so that they are reinforced in the promise of his presence and encourage them along the way. He tells and entrusts these people so that God’s dream can be realized and continued. The Twelve, too, hesitated and failed like almost everyone else, but at the end of their lives they shared in Jesus’ cup. They lived their lives with humility, their trust in God, a life of service beyond measure, a total surrender to the Kingdom.