(Exodus 12:1-8.11-14; I Corinthians 11:23-26; John 13:1-15)
A family friend was telling me about a woman who lives in her retirement complex. The woman helps her neighbors with the van that she owns. Twice a week she takes them to buy groceries. “Is she paid for it?” I ask. “No,” my friend says, “she volunteers her services.” Now, however, with the pandemic, the woman cannot make grocery runs. Her son has advised her to stay at home. In fact, she does better for her neighbors by not taking them out. Thinking about her, we might say that sometimes it is better not to do what Jesus tells us in this evening's gospel! Sometimes it is better not to wash one another’s feet!
Of course, Jesus does not mean that we literally wash one another’s feet. He is using foot-washing as a figure of speech. On one level Jesus is asking that we show our love for one another by works of service. We might do this by cutting a neighbor’s lawn or cleaning her house. However, in order to not spread the virus, now not going near other people is itself a good work.
But there is a deeper meaning to what Jesus is telling his disciples here. He is using feet washing to describe the sacrament of Baptism. For this reason he tells Peter, “’Unless I wash you, you will have no inheritance with me.’” His disciples are to go forth and baptize others into the mystery of Christ. All of us have a role in this mission. We are to bring others to faith in Jesus Christ by our words and works of service. He is the one who “loved them to the end.” When we always speak graciously and love unselfishly, we fulfill Jesus’ mandate.