Why the Feet?
Homily for the Maundy Thursday Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper
Preached on April 17, 2014 at Saint Andrew Catholic Church, Harrodsburg KY
Readings: Exodus 12:1-8, 11-14; Psalm 116:12-13, 15-16bc, 17-18; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26; John 13:1-15
“What I am doing, you do not understand now, but you will understand later” (Jn. 13:7).
It did not make any sense to the disciples why the Lord would lower Himself to wash, of all things, their feet. It did not make any sense until the next day, on Good Friday, when they saw Christ crushed by the weight of the Cross, the Creator of the universe reduced to a creature crawling His way up to Calvary. He was so bowed down by His burden that He could hardly look at anyone in the eye. All that He could see along the way were feet: those that stood by and did nothing, those that jumped on Him and pushed Him down, those that stepped on Him and kicked Him around, those that backed off and walked away.
It was then that they understood why, on the day before He was to suffer, the Lord washed, not hands or heads (cf. Jn. 13:9), but feet. He was making a statement. He was showing them that He was willing to hold and care for, to wash and wipe even that part that would betray Him, ignore Him, and hurt Him. He was letting them know that “He loved His own in the world and [that] He loved them to the end” (Jn. 13:1).
The world we live in demands a foot for every inch; yet, Christ has shown us that, even before a foot was ever planted upon His face, He had already kissed that foot with His lips.
This is a tough act to follow, but, it is what distinguishes Christian love from every other kind. Christ has commanded us, not to love each other as the world loves, but, to love one another as He has loved us (cf. Jn. 13:34). The world loves with conditions and excuses; it even confuses tolerance with love. Christ loves without counting the cost, without heeding the wounds, without asking for anything in return (cf. Prayer for Generosity). His love does not tolerate some things; “it endures all things” (1 Cor. 13:7).
The world will never understand why we would love this way, why we would care so much for so little, why we would wash the feet that would later step on us.
We do it because it is exactly what our Master did (cf. Jn. 13:15), because He has shown us that is the only way to truly love.