Thursday, April 17, 2014

Wash your feet?

Sr. Joye Gros washing feet.
This evening we washed one another's feet to commemorate the day when Jesus washed His own disciples' feet to teach them, in no uncertain terms, how they are to serve one another. This is an incredibly powerful ritual, especially if you participate in it as a wash-ee and/or a wash-er. (In most parishes that I've been, only the priest celebrant washes feet.) I have had my feet washed twice, first by the then-Bishop of Oakland and this evening by my Sister and fellow novice, Kathy. Tonight was the first time I washed someone's feet. It is a very intimate act, hence its power. Tonight, when people were washing one another's feet, I noticed that most of the time, at the end, the wash-ee hugged and kissed the wash-er. The act goes by quickly because it is symbolic and also perhaps because it more than a little awkward. I imagine though, that when Jesus did it, He took His time, and that maybe only the women and John hugged and kissed Him afterwards.

It's a revealing exercise to look at my relationships through the lens of figurative foot-washing, outside of Holy Thursday, in the ritual of everyday life. With family and friends, where there is a mutuality, we wash one another's feet all the time. With my formators, teachers, spiritual directors, wisdom figures, where there is a hierarchy, my feet get washed all the time, but I don't wash their feet. With the people to whom I minister, I wash their feet all time, and they don't wash mine. With the people I used to work with, outside of religious life, there was very rarely any foot-washing. But what about my peers in community: do we, as self-proclaimed disciples of Jesus, wash one another's feet the way He wants us to? In all honesty, I think the answer to this question is generally no, and I'm not really sure why.
Sr. Joye Gros getting her feet washed.

I think, on my part, perhaps there may be some expectation that we are able to wash our own feet. Or that perhaps I am here to wash someone else's feet, someone more needy than the Sisters I live with. This is crazy, dualistic thinking. Help can be given and received in any direction. Yet somehow, in this regard, I know that only in my head and not in my heart. This is a place where Jesus' message has not quite taken root. This is my prayer on these Holy Days: God's living water for the parts of my heart where the soil is hard and cracked and dry.

What about you? Whose feet are you not yet ready to wash? Why?

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