Have you ever gotten a pedicure on or near Holy Thursday because you knew that your feet would be washed at the Mass of the Lord’s Passion? Yes people, it is true, vanity reigned, and I made sure that my feet would look OK before I let someone wash them at church.
Yes, I know… when you do it, it’s one thing, and when you write about it or read about it, it is another thing. Did you hear me sigh deeply at that one?
Let’s think about a pedicure for a moment before we get to the nitty gritty. A pedicure will allow you to relax with a stranger (in most cases) who will put your feet into a sink or tub, soak them in water that has some kind of soap and/or essential oil. Then they scrub your feet, and after that they trim your toenails, and paint them. For this you pay an amount of money, plus a tip. Sometimes you talk to the person giving you the pedicure, or sometimes no eye contact is made, or a minimal amount of interaction as your feet become allegedly more beautiful. That is all fine and good, but what’s happening on the inside?
On Holy Thursday, Lent is over and we got to mass. Our feet are dirty from our trek through the desert of Lent. If you think about life at Jesus’ time, feet must have been constantly dirty, dusty, and more from wearing sandals all the time. My own feet, typically wrapped up tightly in shoes at this time of year are not dusty, or probably that dirty, but they are… well, they are my feet. I loathe them. The idea of letting someone wash my feet in church is very upsetting and I feel myself shutting down.
On Palm Sunday Pope Francis said, “Humility, is a way which constantly amazes and disturbs us: we will never get used to a humble God!” The humility of Christ led him to wash his disciples’ feet, the master as servant. Despite the protestations of Peter, protestations that continue to be voiced in our own lives, Jesus serves. How can we let go of the no and say yes, Jesus – I accept that you are my God, and that you can wash my filthy, misshapen feet on Holy Thursday. In front of the whole church, no less!
We’ve all done this Holy Thursday mass before, or at least most of us have. This year, if you still have a chance, get your feet washed. You may find that it is much more than simply removing our socks, it is about removing our pride.
Looking back at my Holy Thursday pedi, I shake my head, thinking about my insecure, narcissistic foolishness. Getting my feet washed at mass that night was supposed to be about my union with God, and not about what the person who washed my feet was thinking. How funny we are, as God’s people, do we imagine that exfoliation, scented oil, and some nail polish will fool God? No, it ourselves we fool, because God always sees us as we are.
And as we are, we show up with dirty feet and defended hearts. Jesus is there to address them both. Will we let him?
Yes, Fran! I even have trouble with the pedi itself, though I know I will feel better afterwards. Having my feet washed on Holy Thursday has the same effect, only more so.
On the other hand (foot?), I think I’d have a pedi if I knew Jesus or his rep was going to wash my feet, if only to show how special I thought it was. Kind of like getting dressed up for church. I know I’d be accepted no matter how I looked, but it somehow feels disrespectful to show up in my old clothes – or with grubby feet. I guess that’s my mother coming out of my mouth (fingers)!
I thought of this post last night, Fran, as I looked at my very unready feet as I dressed for Mass. The ragged remains of a polish from last winter on them. Calloused. Swollen ankle. And I thought about letting them be washed by someone I know well…