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The God Who Washes Feet

By: Deacon Keith A Fournier
© Third Millennium, LLC


"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...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."

The Gospel of St John, Chapter 13


How extraordinary! The God who fashioned the entire universe, who dwelt in inaccessible light, came among us as one of us.

This God who created our home came and dwelt with us in it. This is the Christian claim. The God whom we are called to proclaim, in both word and deed, to a world waiting to be reborn, is not a theory. This God is not simply a "First Mover" who created the cosmos and now remains aloof, beyond relationship. Rather, this God of the Christians is a God of love who, out of the depth of that love, came and dwelt among the very creation He had fashioned, out of love and for love, and made Himself vulnerable.

St. John would remind the early Christians, in the fourth chapter of the first letter he would write after recording this Gospel, of the implications of this event when he wrote:

"Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God. Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love. In this way the love of God was revealed to us: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might have life through him. In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also must love one another. No one has ever seen God. Yet, if we love one another, God remains in us, and his love is brought to perfection in us."

Here, in this poignant scene recorded by this beloved disciple John, we encounter Jesus, before he shares a final meal with his closest friends; before He who knew no sin, would suffer and freely stretch out His sacred arms to embrace the entire world and join heaven to earth, showing the depth and substance of true love.

Love is a verb!

This God who made the entire universe, now present as a Man among men; takes the role of a Servant, and actually washes the feet of the very humanity that had been created through Him. The One before whom all the Nations will one day bend the knee, bends His human knee before the ones He had chosen to carry His redemptive mission forward until He returns in glory.

This God, Incarnate in Jesus Christ, takes up the basin, towel and washcloth. In this beautiful encounter we behold Divine Love in service; pouring Himself out, like the water in that basin, in order to make all whose feet had been soiled by sin, and now embraced by His sacred humanity, clean all over. This is the mystery of faith that we profess, this is the way of loving service into which are all invited through our Baptism into Christ. Our love must be about more than words; it must be lived out in lives that are conformed now to Jesus Christ.

Shortly after this event we read, in this same Gospel, the continuation of the love story. This active love of God in the flesh leads Him to that Hill where he would show the depth and summit of this Love. Next in the sequence of events however, Jesus inaugurates the great meal that is itself the very heart of the holy exchange. There, He gives Himself as food for all those who will make the journey with Him back to the Father. These are the ones whom He invites to bring the whole world along with them in a missionary work that continues now through the mission of the Church in our day.

Then, the Innocent One freely takes the punishment and derision, caused by the sins of a world that has forgotten love, upon Himself and walks the way of suffering. He mounts the altar of sacrifice and fully pours Himself out - every last drop of blood and water flowing from His wounded side - on behalf of us all. In that great culmination of His active love He begins creation anew by overcoming sin, paying the debt of justice and defeating the devil and the last enemy, death.

Every day we are invited to begin again, to choose to make this mystery our own. No mere spectators in this Act of Love, we who bear the name "Christian" are invited to become participants. We who bear the name "Christian" are called to pick up that basin and towel, to climb upon that Cross and to learn -and live- this way of Love in service. We are called to live in the both the power and the invitation demonstrated on that Cross and fulfilled in the stone that is rolled away.

Our faith and love are meant to be active and incarnate as we live our daily lives in love. We are invited to demonstrate our belief in Loves' eternal promise by living like the God who washes feet. We are invited to gives ourselves away for others.

Do we?

Do we love by pouring ourselves out, even for those whom we do not feel particularly fond of? Have we grasped the full implications and invitation of this washing? Only when we do will we actually help make the mystery real upon an earth that still awaits the fullness of redemption. Let us choose today to follow the God who washes feet on the way of poured out love. Let us love in word and in deed. Let us join the God who still washes feet and continue the work that He began.


Keith A Fournier is a Roman Catholic deacon of the Diocese of Richmond, Virginia who also serves the Melkite Greek Catholic Church with approval. Deacon Fournier A graduate of the Franciscan University of Steubenville, the John Paul II Institute of the Lateran University and the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. He is a human rights lawyer, lobbyist for faith based initiatives and businessman. He is the founder and Thomas More Fellow of Common Good and was a founder of Your Catholic Voice.


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