Holy Thursday & Justice – A reflection

Holy Thursday & Justice – A reflection

There was tension in the air… the Passover was upon them and Jesus’ mood had shifted. As they gathered in the upper room, the atmosphere was a mix of expectation and unease, and as the first act of the Passover custom, all who met would have their feet washed. Yet tonight Jesus, as he had done so often before, turned their world upside down. For here he was, wash bowl and cloth in hand, ready to perform the role of the lowest of servants and wash their dirty, filthy feet. Peter exclaimed “You will never wash my feet” and probably every other disciple felt the same – a King does not do this – the Messiah is not a foot washer!

Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.” And Simon Peter, in an act of desperate humility replied “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” Once Jesus had cleansed the feet of his disciples he said “Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.” (See John 13:1-16) Elsewhere Jesus had taught his disciples “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all” (Mark 9:35) but tonight, his last night on earth with them, he really wanted them to understand this crucial teaching – and so he washed their feet.

So why do we serve? Why do we strive for Justice? Why do we volunteer in soup kitchens, or crisis centres or school breakfast programs? Why do we advocate to our politicians to make sure our society is a just and fair one? Why do we wash dirty feet?…

We serve because we follow a God who served us and asked us to do the same for others.

Martin Luther King, Jr. once said “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’” It is a good question for us this Holy Thursday.

(Image: ‘Jesus Washing Peter’s Feet’ by Ford Madox Brown)

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