Sisters of St. Francis of the Holy Cross in Green Bay, WI
Holy Week Reflection Series

Holy Week Reflection Series

Holy Thursday: Jesus demonstrates humble servanthood

What's behind our reluctance to let the King wash our feet -- or sins? 

by Sister Elise Cholewinski

St. Francis of Assisi has indicated in his Admonitions that those who are placed over others should boast about that position no more than they would if they were assigned the duty of washing their feet. (Adm. 4:2-3).

As Jesus celebrated the Passover Meal with His disciples, He assumed the role of the lowest servant on the household staff by getting down on the floor and washing their feet. It was the utmost sign of humility and it likewise demanded humility on the part of the disciples. They had to allow their Master to come in contact with the dirtiest part of their bodies, given that they often walked barefoot and would have had some disgusting things tucked between their toes. That may be the reason Peter protested so strongly; he didn’t want Jesus to see the ugly part of him.

With what posture do we come before the Lord? Do we stand before Him, proud of all our accomplishments? Or do we get down and expose to Him our deepest wounds and the parts of our personal histories that we deem ugly? Only when we are humble enough to let Jesus touch us in those areas of our lives where we feel the most shame and guilt and embarrassment will we be able to meet others with compassion in those places that they fear to reveal. Only then can we truly be disciples.

1 Comment

04/09/2020 10:22 am

In a three-day intensive communication 'retreat,' "Our Community Listens," the third day contains a short video of what it means to actually "sit with" and "be with" someone who is really down-in-the-pits. Just to "be with" that person, without judgement, without denial of their pain, without wanting to 'rescue' or 'fix' them, but rather, the only objective being to understand, support, and 'be one-with-the-suffering,' as in 'compassion.' This is how I see JESUS in the washing of the feet.

JESUS washing the feet of his apostles might well have been a prelude and preparation for their encounter with his suffering and death on the cross. For, if JESUS is letting them know that he knows each one for who they truly are -- quirks, faults, character flaws and all -- and is willing to embrace them and love them, in spite of all of that -- maybe then they'll be better prepared to accept and understand the depth of meaning of his suffering and death.

In prayer, if I place myself in the presence of JESUS, with he at my feet ...... with water basin and towel at hand .... What does that gesture, in itself, make me feel like? If, I had just been the one at JESUS' feet, anointing him with my tears, or perfumed oil, and wiping them with my hair ..... And now, here is JESUS at MY feet .... What emotions flow from me .....? What do I feel like in the presence of JESUS this way? What do I want to say to him? What words come from my mouth? How does JESUS respond to me?


“Do you realize what I have done for you?" (Jn. 13: 12)

(How do I respond to this personal, intimate, most genuinely human and sincere question from JESUS?)

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