Today is Holy Thursday which is the first day of the Tridium (those three days between Lent and Easter)
On Holy Thursday we celebrate the Lord's Supper---the night before Jesus' passion and death when He instituted the Eucharist. The Gospel reading for Holy Thursday is from the Gospel of John and it recounts Jesus washing the feet of His disciples.
A little refresher: So Jesus finishes up with supper. He gets up and takes off his outer garments and ties a towel around his waist. Now, his disciples, who have seen some WILD stuff the last few years are probably wondering, "what's He going to do now?" Imagine--they seen Jesus walk on water, raise people from the dead, heal the blind and made the lame walk. They have to be intrigued by what's going on. Jesus starts to wash the disciples feet. Again--remember--back in these days they aren't wearing some nice Nike's---they are wearing sandals and walking through the dirt--walking down roads that the live stock also travel on. I don't know if you realize this--but live stock tend to leave things behind so they've probably stepped in some "stuff." Their feet have to be FILTHY!! And here is Jesus, the man that they now know is the Messiah--the anointed one--crouched down washing their feet.
Finally He gets to Peter and--well, you have to love Peter--you know Peter's going to stick his foot in his mouth (no pun intended) Peter says, "What are you doing!?!? Do you think you're going to wash my feet?!?" (I'm paraphrasing here) and Jesus says, "Don't worry about what I'm doing cause you ain't going to understand. You'll get it later." (again--paraphrasing. You aren't going to find those exact words in red letters in any Bible (see footnote))
So Peter goes on, "Oh nooooooo, you are NOT washing MY feet" to which Jesus replies, "Unless I wash you, you will have no inheritance with me." And Peter says, "In that CASE--don't just wash my feet but my hands and face too." You see--Peter didn't have it all put together quite yet but he knew what Jesus had to offer.
Jesus finishes up and goes and sits down and says, "Think about this--you call me master and teacher and, well I am. If the teacher and master has washed your feet you should wash each others. This is the model I set for you."
I'm not Bible scholar by any means but I think what Jesus is trying to be a model for us. My first clue? "This is the model I set for you." Yeah, yeah--It's subtle but it's there.
What does it really mean? It means we are all supposed to be servants to each other. You see--before the fall, the first sin of Adam and Eve--that's the way it was supposed to be. We were all supposed to take care of each other without any concerns to ourselves. Jesus is saying that it's STILL supposed to be that way. We are STILL supposed to take care of each other without any concerns to ourselves. But due to sin, we are inclined to look out for #1 first of all--we take care of ourselves. Oh yeah--we might take care of our loved ones but even then we tend to move them to the side if they get in our way.
Why washing feet though?? Like I said--it was probably a pretty messy task. Now days at the Holy Thursday mass we recreate this by the priest washing some parishioners feet but you know darn well they were clean before they got there. Probably gave themselves a pedicure. But the disciples?? Can you imagine that bowl of water?? It probably had to be changed out a few times--pouring out muddy water for clean. This is a messy, disgusting task. And Jesus gets down, probably on his hands and feet to do this. The model Jesus is setting shows that when we take care of others we should not be happy with something subtle--although the little things do add up. But we are expected to do the big things--that we are not over anyone. We should be prepared to get down on our hands and knees and to get our hands dirty in order to take care of others.
Footnote: for our Catholic readers who may not have picked up a Bible in awhile--in many Bibles the words of Jesus are written in red letters. It's really a protestant thing)