I was wondering if Jesus had not washed the feet of His disciples, would someone have done it? And if so, who would have done this service?
It is thought that there were others who traveled with Jesus. In this group do you suppose there would have been a hierarchy, for example, those who always washed the feet of others? That would not fit into the plan Jesus had in mind, that is to serve one another. Do you think they took turns washing feet? That might make more sense. Since they wore sandals or no shoes at all, it would have been a very dirty job. And the recipient of the foot washing would certainly have been very appreciative. Peter gives us a clue. He did not want His feet washed by Jesus. Perhaps washing of feet was considered a very menial task that was below the dignity of Jesus. Peter wanted no part.
Today it is difficult to find people willing to volunteer to have their feet washed. I have often been asked why we keep doing this. Some people have even suggested they do not like watching.
The first reason is that the Church has a special liturgy for this event. The Church sees this action as the institution of the priesthood. It is an act of service and an act of love. The service part we get, but washing feet? I think we do this act because of its very nature we need to be reminded that Jesus did this. Because it is such a menial task, we find it humiliating. More so we should remember and do what Jesus did.
Second, in this humble act, we enter the Triduum with eyes open. Washing feet in the middle of a mass tells us things are different. We need to pay attention and focus on what is about to happen.
Third, on the night that the Institution of Eucharist happens, notice we do not hear the words: take and eat, this is my body. We do not hear this is the cup of my blood, take and drink. John’s description of the Eucharist is in two statements Jesus makes.
“What I am doing, you do not understand now, but you will understand later.”
“I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.”
John knows the people he is writing to already know the words of institution. He is explaining why we celebrate mass and the Eucharist. We will understand and we will follow the model, just as Jesus has taught us.
May the Lord bless you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen