Every year, we repeat this dramatic and emotional gesture of the washing of the feet, perfectly narrated in John’s gospel. It appears easy to wash the feet of others. If these people are children and infants, yes. But adults, and coming from everywhere, that’s another story. Thank God, it is done only once a year.

We discover today another face of Jesus our Savior – that he is Servant, of God his Father and of his brothers. Washing the feet of his disciples was not a singular event in the life of Jesus. It was the summary of his earthly life. All his life was an outpouring of kindness and concern and compassion so that others may live restored and renewed. It was his habit to wash other people’s feet.

If Palm Sunday reveals Jesus as King, Holy Thursday reveals him as Servant. It is not easy being thus, for it demanded of him, as Philippians say, “to empty himself taking the form of a slave.” But he clearly delighted in being Servant.

What did Jesus wash away? In the gospel, it was the soil, the dirt, the odor of busy, weary, misshapen feet of working men. But even the feet were just symbols of a deeper reality. Jesus explained to Peter that he did not wish to give them a bath! He only wanted to wash his feet because in general, they were already clean. On the surface level, it is natural for people going to a feast to at least clean themselves so they will be presentable. So it is only the feet that really needs cleaning.

On the spiritual level, Jesus is telling us that we are generally clean, because we were already washed in baptism and we are already God’s children. However, our feet are dirty and need to be cleansed. As followers of Jesus, we already follow him but our feet also make us go in different directions and follow other masters. Yes, we are baptized but in daily life we follow sinful paths. The sinful residues of our wanderings are what Jesus comes to wash away

To wash away our sins, Jesus became our servant. We encounter him as Servant in particular through the sacraments. There is the Sacrament of the Priesthood, where Jesus comes to us through our fellow human beings who are called to mirror his servanthood in a special way. Priests are broken, sinful, dirty people just like the rest of humanity, but Jesus humbly uses them to restore to the Father the lost and the suffering. Priests are not perfect but they must strive to reflect the heart of Jesus to all, specially in Confession.

Then we have the Sacrament of the Eucharist. Jesus continues to serve to us the greatest gifts of his Body and Blood at the table of this holy meal, his sacrifice. Once he gave his life on the Cross; now he gives his life as food for body and soul. These two sacraments form part of our reflection and prayer in this evening of silence and connection with the Lord.

Let us allow Jesus the Servant of God and the servant of humanity to wash our feet today, to wash our hearts clean of the sins that separate us from him.