Washing the Apostles’ Feet

Holy Thursday

John 13: 1-15
Ex 12:1-8.11-14 / Ps 116 / 1 Cor 11:23-26

Whoever has bathed has no need (to be bathed again) except to have his feet washed, for he is clean all over…
(John 13:10)

Jesus showed us how we must serve
In the essence of true leadership;
In humility do we deserve
The commission of God’s stewardship.

During their Passover meal, Jesus rose from the table, took off His outer garment, wrapped a towel around His waist, and poured water into a basin. Then he proceeded to wash the feet of His apostles, drying them with the towel at His waist.

Peter could not understand what the Master was doing, or the message He was trying to impart. It was usually the lowliest servant in the house who washed the feet of the guests, and here was his Lord and Master wanting to wash his feet! Not if I can help it, thought Peter. But Jesus told him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but you will understand later. . . Unless I wash you, you will have no inheritance with me” (13:7,8).


In Baptism we have already been cleansed. But in our journey through life, we cannot help but be soiled by the materialism of this world. That is why our Lord, through the Church, instituted the sacrament of reconciliation, Penance. By this mandate, He said: “Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven” (Mt.16:19) – His ministers ‘wash our feet’ every time we go to confession. Today, Holy Thursday, let us prepare ourselves for the coming passion and death of our Lord Jesus by humbling ourselves in confessing our sins, and in resolving to forgive those who have wronged us in the past.

In our celebration of the Holy Eucharist, how can we receive our Lord in the Paschal meal if our ‘feet are dirty’ (we’re in the state of mortal sin)? We have to let the priest ‘wash our feet’ first in the confessional box, as Jesus did with His apostles before they ate the Last Supper.

By washing His apostles’ feet, Jesus also showed us that servanthood is really the essence of true leadership. Christ’s leaders often have to do the dirty work in order to set the example of humility. As Christ pointed out in His sermon on the mount, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (Mt.5:5). “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven” (Mt.5:12).

Lord, You have washed away our sins not with water but with your own blood! This You have done not only because of Your great love, but for teaching us the value of humility. How can we ever measure up to what You have done for us?

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