Jesus … removed his outer garment and, taking a towel, wrapped it around his waist; he then poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel he was wearing …
John 13:1-17, 31b-35
April 1, 2021, Words By: Sue Hudacek, Image By: Unknown
Today’s reflection comes from Sue Hudacek, Volunteer Coordinator for L’Arche Tahoma Hope, an intentional community where people, with and without intellectual disabilities, share life together. In addition, Sue has spent the last year discerning ordination in the Street Psalms Community.
A number of years ago, about 35 members of L’Arche from around the world made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. I remember leaving the Church of the Nativity, getting on our bus, and driving towards the Segregation Wall that separates Palestinians and Jews. Just before arriving at the wall, we turned down a dirt road to a small convent. Most of us immediately walked over to the wall. It was in the process of being built and we could look out towards the countryside that would soon be blocked off.
Upon seeing the wall, I had a visceral reaction, as if some part of me was being cut off. I could feel the separation rising.
Then, as we turned towards the convent, we were greeted by several sisters and welcomed inside. We sat on benches and in the choir stalls around the small chapel. We remained there in silence. A few minutes later the sisters appeared, towels wrapped around their waists, holding pitchers of water and bowls. In silence, they slowly moved around the room washing our feet.
The tenderness, the love, the welcome and acceptance brought tears to many of us. It felt as though we were the disciples and it was Jesus washing our feet. It didn’t matter that some of us came from countries paying for a wall that would soon cut them off from the rest of the world, separating them from relationships and essential services. In spite of that, the sisters still looked at us with dignity, respect and reverence, knocking down any relational barriers that threatened to come between us.
Each year at the L’Arche Tahoma Hope community where I serve, we have a Maundy Thursday service that includes a communal foot washing. Like most things at L’Arche, it’s both reverent and comical … lots of laughter and giggles, folks that are ticklish or nervous, moments of silence and bursts of joy. It’s one of my favorite celebrations. Feet are washed, hearts are warmed, walls come down.
It isn’t easy to allow a housemate, let alone a stranger, to wash your feet, at least not for me. I often forget how the core members in our community humbly allow us to help them in the shower and attend to whatever personal care they may need. This show of tenderness is what our world so desperately needs right now. The power of tenderness is what gives L’Arche a prophetic voice in our world today.
On Maundy Thursday, Jesus sets before us an example of love, a love that washes away tyranny, racism and injustice, to name a few. He removes the things that separate us and replaces them with the tender touch of love and the kind of community where no is excluded. For Jesus, all feet are worthy, even those of the one who will betray him.
As someone who has journeyed with L’Arche for 44 years, there are many whose feet I have washed and many who have washed mine. Here, tenderness and vulnerability join in a virtuous cycle that creates a space where no one needs to hide. I’ve discovered that as I open up and embrace my vulnerability, I become more human, empowered to truly wash the feet of our vulnerable and fragile world.