St. Peter’s Pedicure

Scripture scholars have not weighed in on whether a first century Palestinian equivalent of a “mani-pedi” was customary in Jesus’ time, but chances are that Peter, a fisherman, would have opted out, even if it were. Undoubtedly, Peter’s feet were nasty.

Peter’s famous question to Jesus at the Last Supper probably emerges from the apostle’s incredulity that his Lord would stoop to honor him with such a slavish gesture, not out of embarrassment over the shape of his foot and toenails. “Master, are you going to wash my feet?” asks an astonished Peter.

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Jesus taught more with actions than words. His instruction “Do this in memory of me” does not merely apply to the consecration that the church prays at the mass; rather, this command of Jesus includes all that the Eucharist impels. Tonight at the annual Mass of the Lord’s Supper, we hear and see the foot-washing element of the Eucharist. While this does not occur every time we gather for Mass, it is implicit in action of the mass. Celebrating the Eucharist includes the amen that acknowledges our Savior’s real presence in the form of the bread and wine, changed into his body and blood. It also includes our acceptance of the call to wash others’ feet and to let them wash ours.

Sometimes this latter task is more difficult. We first-worlders pride ourselves on our independence and don’t like to rely on others, even when we are in need. We may be embarrassed by the messiness of our problems, quite like we may wince at the thoughts of our feet being washed with no preparation to make them look better. We may even be ashamed of our messiness and the choices, traits, and insecurities that make us feel or appear messy. Nevertheless, as people of the Eucharist, we are called to a vulnerability and generosity that gave us this sacrament in the first place: the cross of Jesus, who hanged naked, both saving us in strength and letting Simon of Cyrene aid him in need.

To live Jesus is to be human, in all of its messiness so that the grace of Jesus can redeem it. What mess will we bring to the Lord to be washed tonight?