What It Means to Wash One Another’s Feet

Today we celebrate Holy Thursday, the birthday of the priesthood and the day Jesus instituted the Holy Eucharist. In the Gospel reading for the Mass of the Lord’s Supper we hear about Jesus washing the feet of the apostles. In doing this, Jesus performs a task meant only for servants, and He tells the apostles, “If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.” (John 13:14-15)

But what does it mean to wash one another’s feet today? How can we follow the example that Jesus gives us in this Gospel passage? A listener who called-in to The Inner Life® shared an example from his life in which he experienced his own ‘washing of the feet’.

Joe, a listener from New Jersey, said, “I like to relate to Holy Thursday through a story of sacrifice. Many, many years ago I was in the junior seminary in Upstate New York. We had a terrific snowstorm (the snow had to be five feet high) and the grounds of the junior seminary were quite extensive. My job, among other people in my group, was to shovel.”

Joe explained that he didn’t own a pair of gloves, and after shoveling for two hours he was rather uncomfortable. Then one of his teachers, Brother Bob, came up to him and said, “Joe, where are your gloves?”

Joe recalled, “I lied and said, ‘I left them in the house, Brother.’ I was ashamed that I didn’t own a pair of gloves.”

Brother Bob told Joe, “Why don’t you take mine? I’m going right back into the main building anyway. Take them.”

“He convinced me to take them and I worked for another 45 minutes to an hour with the gloves,” Joe said. “I was relieved and went back into the main building and happened to walk to the other side of the building. Looking out to the other side I saw Brother Bob shoveling – without gloves.”

“That, to me, was an example of Christ’s sacrifice, similar to His washing of the feet,” Joe said. “Here I had a man who was a teacher, an example to me not only in the spiritual life but who was living that Gospel by his example. That story has always stayed with me.”

In what ways have others ‘washed your feet’ in your life? How can you ‘wash the feet’ of those around you? As we give thanks this day for the gifts of the Eucharist and the priesthood, let us also give thanks for those who have followed the example of Jesus and sacrificed for love of us.

wash one another's feet

Stephanie Foley serves as a Digital Media Producer at Relevant Radio®. She is a graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville, where she studied journalism, and she has worked in Catholic radio for 12 years. Stephanie is a wife, a mother of three boys, and in her free time she enjoys reading, running, and really good coffee. You can find more of Stephanie’s writing at relevantradio.com and on the free Relevant Radio mobile app.