At Mass on Holy Thursday, a priest will wash feet of 12 people. This is to show humility of service. Jesus washed the apostles’ feet to show them what kind of priests he wanted them to be, to serve not to be served.
I once had the complete humiliation of having my feet washed. It was not on Holy Thursday but it was part of my The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) class. The RCIA class is a class for converts to Catholicism. I’m not sure if washing of the feet is a standard for all RCIA classes or not, but one thing I can tell you I was humiliated. The washing of my feet came as a complete surprise. If I knew ahead of time, I surely would have arranged for a pedicure. I wasn’t sporting sleek, beautiful, show-off summer feet. No, my feet were sporting the jacked-up, dried-up winter feet that are always covered up in thick socks. On top of having winter feet, I also have psoriasis on the bottom of my feet and if you don’t know what it is, it can look very scary and something you definitely do NOT want to touch. The moment they announced the washing of our feet, I felt my feet starting to sweat. I started to panic trying to remember the last time I cut my toe nails or the last time I used a loofah. There was no time to excuse myself and go to the washroom for a quick foot check; the teachers had the water, pails, and towels already to go. Waiting for my turn seemed like it took an eternity. When I took off my socks and shoes, my feet were not sweating, they looked fine and my toe nails were cut. The actual washing took only seconds and then it was over. My pride and vanity created my freak out and for what? I would say for nothing except for the fact it was a good lesson in humility.
I think about this when I read about Jesus washing Peter’s feet. I can relate to Peter’s first reaction when Jesus told the apostles His plan to wash their feet.
The Washing of the Disciples’ Feet.
– John, Chapter 13
Taken from the USCCB (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops) website.
1 Before the feast of Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to pass from this world to the Father. He loved his own in the world and he loved them to the end.
2 The devil had already induced Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot, to hand him over. So, during supper,
3 fully aware that the Father had put everything into his power and that he had come from God and was returning to God,
4 he rose from supper and took off his outer garments. He took a towel and tied it around his waist.
5 Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and dry them with the towel around his waist.
6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Master, are you going to wash my feet?”
7 Jesus answered and said to him, “What I am doing, you do not understand now, but you will understand later.”
8 Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “Unless I wash you, you will have no inheritance with me.”
9 Simon Peter said to him, “Master, then not only my feet, but my hands and head as well.” 10 Jesus said to him, “Whoever has bathed has no need except to have his feet washed, for he is clean all over; so you are clean, but not all.”
11 For he knew who would betray him; for this reason, he said, “Not all of you are clean.”
12 So when he had washed their feet [and] put his garments back on and reclined at table again, he said to them, “Do you realize what I have done for you?
13 You call me ‘teacher’ and ‘master,’ and rightly so, for indeed I am.
14 If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet.
15 I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.
16 Amen, amen, I say to you, no slave is greater than his master nor any messenger greater than the one who sent him.
17 If you understand this, blessed are you if you do it.
18 I am not speaking of all of you. I know those whom I have chosen. But so that the scripture might be fulfilled, ‘The one who ate my food has raised his heel against me.’
19 From now on I am telling you before it happens, so that when it happens you may believe that I AM.
20 Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.”