Today’s reflection is from Jeannine Gramick, SL, taken from the 2001 Lenten reflection booklet. Sr. Gramick, an author and well-known speaker, co-founded New Ways Ministry, a Catholic social justice center working for the reconciliation of lesbian/gay people and the church. She was named a 2006 Laureate of the International Mother Teresa Awards for her role as a human rights activist.
reflection for HOLY THURSDAY, APRIL 1, 2021
by Jeannine Gramick, SL
He took a towel and tied it around his waist.
Then he poured water into a basin
and began to wash the disciples’ feet… (Jn 13:4-5)
The dominant image of Holy Thursday is the kneeling figure of Jesus, towel in hand, basin of water at his side, and washing the feet of his disciples. In Jesus’s culture, the washing of feet expressed welcome and service. It was rendered to people having some economic or social superiority. Jesus inverts the roles and lovingly serves the insignificant and ordinary.
The most beautiful reflection on this scene that I have read is a poem, “God in an Apron”, by Macrina Wiederkehr. Imagine yourself, Macrina says, in the setting of the Last Supper, with Jesus standing before you and then bending down to wash your feet:
…God in an apron, kneeling
I couldn’t believe my eyes.
I was embarrassed until his eyes met mine
I sensed my value then.
He touched my feet
He held them in his strong, brown hands
He washed them
I can still feel the water
I can still feel the touch of his hands.
I can still see the look in his eyes.
Then he handed me the towel and said,
“As I have done
so you must do.”
Learn to bow
Learn to kneel…
How many times has God come to us in an apron and we do not see that it is truly God? God comes in the hug or the embrace of a loved one welcoming us back home from travel. God comes in the brightness of a blue sky and white clouds announcing the hope of another day. God comes in the presence of a friend who offers a shoulder to cry on. God comes in civil legislation that has been passed to safeguard the rights of minorities. God comes in an apron with a basin of water disguised and too often unrecognized.
Jesus hands us the apron and water basin so that we learn how to bow and how to kneel. “As I have done, so you must do,” he says. We wash feet when we make a phone call to a friend inviting her to dinner or a party. We wash feet when we smile at a senior citizen and bid him a bright “Good morning”. We wash feet when we scratch the chin of a cat, stroke her fluffy fur, and hear her purr “Thank you”. We wash feet when we write to our Congressperson or the White House to support a proposed bill to enhance human welfare or end violence.
How has God washed my feet? How have I washed God’s feet?
This reflection appeared in Embracing Conversion: Reflections for Lent 2001, published by Pax Christi USA in 2001.