What Dirty Feet Can Teach Me

April 1, 2021   Holy Thursday Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper (Lectionary: 39)

Reading I   Ex 12:1-8, 11-14
The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt,
“This month shall stand at the head of your calendar;
you shall reckon it the first month of the year.
Tell the whole community of Israel:
On the tenth of this month every one of your families
must procure for itself a lamb, one apiece for each household.
If a family is too small for a whole lamb,
it shall join the nearest household in procuring one
and shall share in the lamb
in proportion to the number of persons who partake of it.
The lamb must be a year-old male and without blemish.
You may take it from either the sheep or the goats.
You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month,
and then, with the whole assembly of Israel present,
it shall be slaughtered during the evening twilight.
They shall take some of its blood
and apply it to the two doorposts and the lintel
of every house in which they partake of the lamb.
That same night they shall eat its roasted flesh
with unleavened bread and bitter herbs.

“This is how you are to eat it:
with your loins girt, sandals on your feet and your staff in hand,
you shall eat like those who are in flight.
It is the Passover of the LORD.
For on this same night I will go through Egypt,
striking down every firstborn of the land, both man and beast,
and executing judgment on all the gods of Egypt—I, the LORD!
But the blood will mark the houses where you are.
Seeing the blood, I will pass over you;
thus, when I strike the land of Egypt,
no destructive blow will come upon you.

“This day shall be a memorial feast for you,
which all your generations shall celebrate
with pilgrimage to the LORD, as a perpetual institution.”

Responsorial Psalm   116:12-13, 15-16bc, 17-18
R. (cf. 1 Cor 10:16) Our blessing-cup is a communion with the Blood of Christ.
How shall I make a return to the LORD
for all the good he has done for me?
The cup of salvation I will take up,
and I will call upon the name of the LORD.
R. Our blessing-cup is a communion with the Blood of Christ.
Precious in the eyes of the LORD
is the death of his faithful ones.
I am your servant, the son of your handmaid;
you have loosed my bonds.
R. Our blessing-cup is a communion with the Blood of Christ.
To you will I offer sacrifice of thanksgiving,
and I will call upon the name of the LORD.
My vows to the LORD I will pay
in the presence of all his people.
R. Our blessing-cup is a communion with the Blood of Christ.

Reading II   1 Cor 11:23-26
Brothers and sisters:
I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you,
that the Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over,
took bread, and, after he had given thanks,
broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you.
Do this in remembrance of me.”
In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying,
“This cup is the new covenant in my blood.
Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup,
you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes.

Verse Before the Gospel   Jn 13:34
I give you a new commandment, says the Lord:
love one another as I have loved you.

Gospel   Jn 13:1-15
Before the feast of Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come
to pass from this world to the Father.
He loved his own in the world and he loved them to the end.
The devil had already induced Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot, to hand him over.
So, during supper,
fully aware that the Father had put everything into his power
and that he had come from God and was returning to God,
he rose from supper and took off his outer garments.
He took a towel and tied it around his waist.
Then he poured water into a basin
and began to wash the disciples’ feet
and dry them with the towel around his waist.
He came to Simon Peter, who said to him,
“Master, are you going to wash my feet?”
Jesus answered and said to him,
“What I am doing, you do not understand now,
but you will understand later.”
Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.”
Jesus answered him,
“Unless I wash you, you will have no inheritance with me.”
Simon Peter said to him,
“Master, then not only my feet, but my hands and head as well.”
Jesus said to him,
“Whoever has bathed has no need except to have his feet washed,
for he is clean all over;
so you are clean, but not all.”
For he knew who would betray him;
for this reason, he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

So when he had washed their feet
and put his garments back on and reclined at table again,
he said to them, “Do you realize what I have done for you?
You call me ‘teacher’ and ‘master,’ and rightly so, for indeed I am.
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.”

By Jenna McAndrew

I don’t like feet. I don’t like looking at my feet. I don’t even let my husband touch my feet. It’s just one of those things that is the equivalent of nails on a chalkboard for me. When you think about it, feet are pretty gross. They’re all over our dirty floors, or inside of constricting socks and shoes all day, and then they smell.

I’m cringing even writing about it.

Even as a privileged American living in 2021, I think feet are gross. Imagine living two thousand years ago, in Jesus’s time, in the Middle East. You would be living in the desert in dry heat. People in Jesus’s time sometimes wore sandals, which as we know, have open toes and sides.  And these people didn’t have cars or buses or trains.

They walked EVERYWHERE in open-toed shoes in the desert. Many people didn’t even wear shoes! Their feet must have been absolutely nasty, even Jesus’s! Their feet were callused and dirt-covered.

It was something that was understood amongst everyone except royalty: everyone had gross feet.

Because of this, it was common to wash one’s feet before entering a synagogue or the Temple. It was also common for a host to wash their guests’ feet upon entering the home.

But at the Last Supper, Jesus does not simply wash the feet of the Apostles as His guests. He becomes, in this moment, their servant. In Jesus’s time, for a slave to wash the feet of their master was some of the most degrading work you could do. Many slaves and servants were never even made to do such a task.

And yet, in today’s Gospel, we read of Jesus bending down, tying a towel around his waist, and becoming a servant to twelve of His closest friends.

This is what Jesus offers all of us on Holy Thursday as well. God Incarnate stoops down to the level of slave to purify us, to get us ready for the Paschal Feast.

And this is only a foreshadowing of what will happen to Jesus the next day. Jesus will once again stoop down to the level of criminal and outcast and purify the world of its sin, to get us ready for the eternal Supper at God’s table.


Jenna McAndrew is the Director of Parish Services at a parish outside of Philadelphia and the host of A Shower of Roses, a weekly podcast which provides an explanation of the upcoming Sunday’s Mass readings. She has her Master’s degree in Religious and Pastoral Studies.  Jenna lives in the suburbs of Philadelphia with her wonderful, saintly husband, Paul.  She loves corgis, coffee, guitar, and writing music.  Follow her here or listen here.

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