Holy Thursday 2011 - Humility

Washing of feet, sign of extreme humility

On Holy Thursday we commemorate the Last Supper which forms the basis of the institution of the Holy Eucharist that has become the fundamental focus of our Catholic Faith. The most memorable thing about this day that had impressed me since I was young was the washing of the feet by the preist. Yes year after year on every Holy Thursday, without fail we witness the priest, like Jesus, washing the feet of his 12 “apostles”.

This act of Jesus was a truly revolutionary one which would have been scorned by those in power and would be so even today when those who are supposed to serve have become masters of the very people they are are serve. By Jesus washing the feet of his apostles he has demonstrated the most extreme form of humility and love for man and this love resulted in the ultimate sacrifice of His life for us on the cross. He may have done that more than 2000 years ago but the significance of his action remains relevant even today.

As the followers of Jesus, we are asked follow Christ, to humble ourselves, to wash the feet of others especially those under our care. It may be easy to enact that historic scene of washing of the feet but in real life it is not that easy to demonstrate that humility and love for those below us. Are we, like Jesus, willing to go down on our knees to serve others? Are we willing to sacrifice whatever we can for the betterment of others? These are the questions we must ponder on this auspicious day when Jesus gave us Himself in the form of bread and wine for the betterment of us.

If only each of us had that humility of Jesus the chaos in and around us would never have occurred. If only we had the humility to admit our mistakes and seek forgiveness from those we had hurt most of our problems could have never surfaced. On the other hand lack of this humility was the cause of violence and war throughout the history of man.

Today our Church is being confronted with the biggest challenge in recent times in the form of the clergy sex scandal which had dealt a severe blow to its relevance in the world today. The very people who were supposed to uphold morality have failed us miserably. If only those involved regardless of their position had the humility to take responsibility for their sins or their cover up of justice, we will not be experiencing this problem that is threatening the credibility of the Church as the moral guardian of humanity. On Holy Thursday our priests, bishops and the Pope take centre stage in enacting the washing of feet for the world audience but are they willing to follow Jesus in washing the feet of the victims of the sex abuses? Are they willing to wash the feet of their parishioners who may be despised and suffering in pain and agony of some form?

On a smaller dimension if only each one of us had that humility of Christ, marital problems resulting in divorce and family break up with “orphaned” children will be minimal. Our families would be happy and intact.

Every year our priests make it a point to wash the feet of their twelve "apostles". To many it may be just a ritual and they do it as an obligation. In fact the act itself is reminder that they are the servants, not masters, of their parishioners.

The washing of the feet is a lesson not only for the priests but for of us as well. It is a lesson for us in our relationship with those we encounter daily - our spouse, our children, parents, priests, friends and particularly our subordinates. Do we treat them with the respect and love they deserve?

The washing of the feet is a clear demonstration of Christ’s second great commandment to us – love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus said, “If I, then, the Lord and Master, have washed your feet, you must wash each other's feet”(John13:14).

Mother Teresa had this great virtue of humility in abundance as she fulfilled this commandment to the fullest by ‘washing the feet’ of the poorest of the poor in her midst. It is pertinent here to examine ourselves to see where we stand on this scale of humility that was demonstrated by Jesus on Holy Thursday and Mother Teresa in recent times. How willing are we to wash the feet of one another as Jesus commanded.

On this special day let us ask God to give us this great virtue of humility in abundance so that we can in our own small ways, bring about the peace and harmony in our own surroundings by 'washing the feet' of our neighbor in particular our enemies.

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