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Why Did Jesus Wash The Apostles’ Feet?: Holy Thursday Reflection

Today is the time wherein the feet of many of our Christian brothers throughout the world are being washed by priests and pastors during liturgical rites to commemorate Jesus’ washing of the feet of the 12 Apostles. This is likewise the day when the Last Supper of Jesus with the Apostles happened, including His revelation that one of the Apostles will eventually betray Him.

In one of my CCD classes, one of the young girls asked me, “Why did Jesus wash the feet of the Apostles?” Unsure of what to say, I candidly told her the most practical answer that came first into my mind. At that time people only wore sandals and based on accounts, Jesus and His Apostles have been traveling several miles going to Jerusalem. Obviously, their feet were tired and could probably in a terrible state.  Jesus being so considerate could have thought that the tired and dirty feet of His disciples need some pampering.  Thus, He  washed their feet with water/oil, keeping their feet clean and dry.   As if Jesus  offered some foot spa treatment to His followers  just like what massage therapists do when we want our feet feel relaxed and rejuvenated! Oh well, the kids unfortunately believed in my story!  That may not the  logic behind the said Biblical event, but it was the most practical reasoning that could  easily be understood by them.

Sure, there was a deeper rationale behind the washing of the feet which was explained/clarified to the kids as well. Jesus’ intent was to share His humility and kindness to others, especially to His Apostles. He wants them to imitate Him and practice the said virtues. During Jesus’ time, the culture or ritual of “washing of the feet” was done by the servants  to their Masters. But it was the other way around in Jesus’ case.  He had a humbling way of showing His generosity. Instead of the Apostles washing His feet, He did it instead to them even if He was their Master.

In today’s time, the “washing of the feet” serves as a “wake-up” call, for everyone to practice more the virtues of charity and humility. On Thursdays of Holy Week, Jesus is reminding us to be kind and humble in everything we do and to be servants of one another. This is why Jesus, after washing the feet of His disciples reminded them, to wit: “Do as I have done to you”.

For young kids, to be humble and kind may be an easy thing to do. Kids ask no questions, they just obey whatever is being told by their parents, their teachers in school, their leaders in the church and in any school related groups and the like. But for grown ups and adults , it would be another story! There would always be a tinge of doubt; they would always ask questions, worry and fret on certain things until it becomes a big issue to them.

One of the two greatest commandments is to “love your neighbor as you love yourself”.  But how can we love another person if we’re not practicing the virtues of humility and charity? How can we carry out these virtues if we think of ourselves as superior in all aspects of life (career, wealth, intelligence) or if we’re jealous of other people’s attributes and properties. When we grow up,things get complicated, it takes a lot of sacrifices and love to apply what Jesus wants us to do today.

If only “pride” did not exist, charity and humility will surely reign on earth. If  only everyone practiced charity and humility in this world, there would be no hunger and less fortunate; there would be no greed and selfishness; there would be no divorce and failed marriages , there would be no wars and conflicts; there would be no VIP’s and proud people who think they are much better than everyone else. I felt that the message behind the “washing of the feet” was really meant for the VIPs, big-headed affluent people, the all-knowing intellectuals and the like: for them all to be like servants who are willing to help and serve other people especially those in dire need.

Ouch! In certain cases I myself, have been guilty against these virtues. Various lures and temptations abound to prevent me from going all the way for God. I must admit even up to this day I am still struggling to be a real good person and hopefully to change completely for the better. But with God’s mercy and forgiveness, I tried very hard to stand up hoping to do good things just to please God.

You may argue with me, these things are easier said than done. But with the resolve to love God and our neighbors, no doubt we can do it. It only takes a little practice of charity and humility with a touch of love. We believe that God is love and love is powerful. When there’s love, we become humble and forgiving; we can bear patiently the faults of others. In so doing, we would be able to face our daily challenges and ultimately share the same to others, making our world filled with beauty and joy.  Isn’t it wonderful?  That is the essence and the logic behind the washing of the feet.

*featured photo mine