Gospel Reflections

Feast of Holy Thursday

John 13:1-15

Feast Day Reflection by Sister Rita Raboin

Published: March 24, 2016

Each time I read these verses which image for us, Jesus washing the feet of the Apostles, it brings me back to my first mission in Brazil about 40 years ago; an image that remains in my heart to this day. I was visiting communities with companions in the interior. I traveled by horse which moved very slowly as my foot became infected and swollen from an insect bite. My friends instructed me to elevate my foot carefully on the horse´s mane, so as to minimize the swelling.

We stopped at a small house in the woods and a wonderful woman welcomed us into her home offering water. She saw my red and swollen foot and offered a stool for me to sit down. She then prepared a basin of water which she placed at my feet. Chickens were in her yard and one flew into the house. She plucked one of its feathers. With this small, soft feather, which she dipped into the water, she soothed and cleaned my wound ever so gently.

There she was, kneeling down in front of me, serving me with her gentleness and kindness. I started to pray in silence, saying to myself.” No, no, you’ve got it all wrong! I am to do this for you. Don’t you understand? And she certainly did. I was so humbled by her witness of caring. After all these years, she and so many other courageous women shine brightly in my memory and in my heart. They confront diverse and challenging moments and are a vital part of our on-going formation. What this woman did was a part of her.

When Jesus says, “Do what I have done for you”, it may not always be literally washing the feet of someone, but indeed, He does challenge us to witness loving service to, with and for others.

Over the years, I have learned that this service assumes different modes of enabling, empowering, believing in, challenging, struggling with and trying to love unconditionally. When Peter refused Jesus´ gesture, Jesus said , if you don't let me do this you cannot be a part of me, or share with me, there is no higher, lower, we are equal.

Does that sound like mutual formation through life? We learn from others all the time. And others have learned from us, however humble that learning may be.

Pope Francis washed the feet of prisoners on one Holy Thursday. He, too, gives us an example and this example overflows into our lives, including seeking justice for the impoverished in our world; refugees, landless, homeless, unemployed, immigrants, the underpaid, the victims of all kinds of violence and exploitation. His relationship to all these people, is one of learning and sharing.

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