(By Fr. Dexter Brereton)
I once visited the community rice plot in Pont Sonde in my first parish and Georges, community leader served as my guide and was showing me how the rice was being planted. At the end of the process before I could react he said to me: “Mon pere kite m lave pye w” (Father let me wash your feet). Without another word he had a small pan and was washing the mud off of my feet. My feet were swollen (as they normally are) and I recalled that it was quite embarrassing to have someone touching those ugly nasty feet of mine in such an intimate way. Yet, this is what came to mind precisely as I read the phrase: ‘If I then, the Lord and Master, have washed your feet, you should was each other’s feet.
What Jesus proposes here to his disciples goes beyond mere servant-hood. Simply serving others, ‘doing stuff’ for people is easy, if they are well behaved. What is harder is serving faithfully while the ones you serve are at their worst. In recent times, we here in Trinidad and Tobago have been reading news reports of arson at one of our secondary schools, gang warfare at another school in central Trinidad and about two other students arrested for beating up their principal. Here the words of Jesus this Holy Thursday might challenge our society to make these words and gestures of his come alive. Jesus’ washing of his disciples nasty feet, challenges us to move beyond the usual ‘get tough’ remedies of which we are so fond in times like these. Here then is the moral question for our society: ‘Can we faithfully and conscientiously continue to serve these young people when at the same time, by their actions they seem to be rejecting the very peace and order and discipline which they so obviously need?’
As I write this homily, my mind is filled with thoughts of my brothers and sisters in Europe, most recently in Brussels Belgium who have had to bear the cross and carnage of terrorism. The words and gestures of Jesus are a stiff challenge to authorities in those countries as well. They are invited by the Lord to move beyond any temptation to stigmatize an entire religious or ethnic community because of a few murderously misguided members. Continuing to do their jobs of protecting their societies without ‘fear or favour’ at this time would truly be an act of ‘washing each other’s feet.’