Photgraph by Anca Gabriela
I have done several personal retreats on the beach, and while I enjoy the sun and the waves, the unique sensation of the sand always pulls my eyes down to see my footprints. It reminds me of the famous poem.
I believe that we all leave footprints in the hearts of the people we cross paths with. People have left their footprints in mine. Some left good memories, others have not. Some of them were so deep that they changed my destiny.
As I reflect on this, I am reminded of the passage in John 13, in which Jesus has the last supper with His disciples and washes their feet. It is an uncomfortable text because the action of Jesus summons us in multiple ways.
John does not give details about the dinner but describes in detail the foot washing. Because His “hour had come,” Jesus does what he considers most important and expresses his irrevocable bond with humanity in an act of service.
His act is difficult for us to understand; some would like to erase it because it complicates our existence. It is framed in the patriarchal system and the ranks of cultural power in which the one who is worth the least serves the one who is worth the most. Jesus breaks the hierarchies of power and worth. With His death near, He wanted to imprint a mark on the lives of those He loved – a footprint that will lead them to follow a different path.
Jesus, Lord of creation, became a servant because He loved deeply. He showed us that worthiness comes not from the honor of the world but from the agape love that triggers the divine in our flesh and the best of what makes us human. This foot washing is not a tender symbol. It is not only a deeply humbling sacramental event but also a strong challenge to our pride, an eternal trail for us to follow and an acknowledgment of our dignity and humaness.
For us, that means grabbing whatever our basin and towel are and washing the feet of others through our love and service to those who need it most.
When he finished washing His disciples’ feet, Jesus asked: “Do you understand what I have done for you?” His words, “do as I have done for you,” could be interpreted as doing a Maundy Thursday foot-washing ceremony. It could also mean valuing and loving all people because that is the act that changes the world.
This foot washing is not a tender symbol...but also a strong challenge to our pride. See the full speech at here
Rev. Dr. Doris García Riverais interim executive director of Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America. This is an excerpt from her 2021 graduation address to Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary.