Daily Reflection
April 21st, 2005

Tom Purcell

Accounting Department
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Acts 13:13-25
Psalm 89:2-3, 21-22, 25 and 27
John 13:16-20

Feet. Underappreciated, overlooked. What grounds us, literally, to this earth. (Yes, I know gravity is the force that actually does this, but I can’t see gravity. I can feel my feet grounded to the earth.) In a time when travel was almost exclusively by foot, a sign of respect and reverence, and of hospitality, was to wash the feet of visitors. Even today, washing feet or rubbing them with lotion is a sign of care and concern. I remember the look of pleasure and gratitude on my Dad’s face when someone would rub his feet with lotion to keep them soft (so they would be less likely to develop sores, a constant threat for people with diabetes).

As we age our feet show the travails of our lives. Infants have innocent and almost perfectly formed feet, yet they also are soft and weak, incapable of holding their weight or transporting them. Children, teens, young adults have feet that become progressively stronger, more capable and supportive, more able to move in a willed direction. But these feet also start to develop signs of age, signs of toughening, of callousing and callousness, to the forces around them. Think of how calloused the feet of Jesus and His disciples must have been – tough as leather, reflecting the many miles that they had traveled. Even later in life feet show more of the stress that they have received – bunions, and aches, and pains that only increase as they are used. I remember how painful it was to watch my mother’s mother walk – her bunions were so pronounced she cut out the sides of her shoes for some comfort, and she had a rolling gait to ease the pain.

Jesus by His act of washing the calloused, dirty, tough soles of the disciples’ feet clearly sends the message that, as He reminds them and us, no master is greater than the disciple. I think there are other possible messages here though. Jesus chose to humble Himself by washing feet, the means by which people move in a willed direction. And so we can ask ourselves in what direction are we moving, and is it the direction we feel called by God to follow? Is Jesus reminding us to ask if our feet are moving us closer to God? And what of our feet themselves? Are they innocent like the infant’s or calloused and world-weary like the aged man? Doesn’t Jesus rejuvenate our feet, and our spirits, by His washing and refreshing, His message of hope and salvation? And can we accept His washing, as did the apostles, by surrendering to the act of charity that He provides with a grateful heart? When we are aware of Jesus washing our feet, do our eyes shine with the gratitude of an old man whose feet are caressed and rubbed with lotion?

My prayer today is that I can be conscious of Jesus being there to wash my world-weary feet as I journey through life, and that in my consciousness I can be grateful for His sacrifice for me.

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