This past Holy Thursday, as I watched my parish priest wash the feet of 12 men, I wondered if the work that I do washes the feet of my neighbour in the way that Jesus intended. My nursing expertise is in caring for the very problematic feet of elderly, often very ill people. I enjoy my work and I know I make a difference in my patients’ lives, but I also get paid. So does that count?
For clarification, I did what I always do when my soul starts veering off the path: ask Wise Friend. He reassured me that what counts is the disposition I have when I provide care to my patients. Is it “just a job” or do I treat my patients with respect and give the best of myself? It’s right to be paid a just wage; what’s wrong is an uncaring attitude. He went on to say that for me, every day is Holy Thursday, since I literally wash feet.
In Jesus’ time, feet were considered the dirtiest part of the body and washing them was relegated to the lowliest person in the room….the servant. In washing the apostles’ feet, Jesus showed that he wanted them to be humble and to serve others.
There are countless opportunities for us to “wash the feet” of our brothers and sisters. Most of them come during the events of our day. This morning, I watched a gentleman push the elevator buttons for the rest of us who were in there with him. I saw a mom help her small child on the playground equipment. The crossing guard at the intersection made sure the kids got safely across busy traffic. My husband prepared oatmeal with blueberries for our family’s breakfast. Ordinary, hidden, everyday. It’s not the magnitude of what we do but the intention and attitude of our actions.
The other aspect Wise Friend made me consider is why I serve. Is it because I want people to acknowledge and praise me, to think I’m a wonderful person, to think I’m better than the rest? If that’s my reasoning, then I need to give myself a serious shake. That’s not service; that’s pride….in spades.
Service which comes through the Holy Spirit unites us to each other, builds community. It unites us to God. Last Sunday, my friend, Fr. Allan MacDonald, gave a homily that connected Pentecost Sunday with the Thanksgiving Mass of a newly ordained priest in their Order of the Companions of the Cross. What he said got me thinking as well.
“We must be builders of community, not consumers of community………what can I contribute to the communities to which I belong so that they become real dwellings of the Holy Spirit?”
Kinda makes you think, doesn’t it? What can I do to help? What can I contribute? How can I use my talents (and we all have them)? What do you need me to do? These are questions I need to ask the Spirit first and He will point me in the right direction.
But my pride can make me think that although it’s good for me to serve others, I don’t need anyone. I have a tendency to be self-sufficient and will often refuse someone’s offer of help. I have to remember that allowing others to give to me is another way to give to them. Being a member of community means that I allow others to serve me too, to wash my feet.
God didn’t intend for us to be islands. He made us to love each other as ourselves, in a community of service, rooted in prayer first, action second. Our faces turned to the Father, our hands outstretched to each other.
It’s wonderful when my kids say “thanks mom, that was a great dinner,” or when a patient says, “thank you nurse, my feet don’t hurt anymore,” or when I say to my daughter, “thanks, love, I really needed that cup of tea.” That’s what life is all about.
Fr. Allan MacDonald is the Director of Vocations for the Companions of the Cross. Here’s the link to his homily as well as a link to the Priestly Order of The Companions of The Cross.
http://www.stmauricechurch.com/playHomily.html Click on May 27.