So, during supper,
fully aware that the Father had put everything into his power
and that he had come from God and was returning to God,
he rose from supper and took off his outer garments.
He took a towel and tied it around his waist.
Then he poured water into a basin
and began to wash the disciples’ feet
and dry them with the towel around his waist.
I am called to, quite literally, take off my own outer garments:
the ones that protect me from the world’s cruelty and coldness,
the ones that offer me safety and comfort,
the ones that tell me to protect myself from the threat of others and the possibility of being hurt or objectified,
the ones that suggest a comparison and false power over others,
the ones that keep the real me away from others.
I am called to put on the promise of the tenderness of a towel, that gently soothes, reconciles the chill, and carefully warms.
I am called to use something as common as water to help heal and hold the most intimate of pains and sufferings.
Jesus’ example shows me how to love close-up, on my knees, in reverence and care of where my neighbor has been.
It is there that I come to understand the intersection of my humility and my neighbor’s vulnerability.
It is there that I can hold, with reverence, the grooves and contours of years of journey – high points, low points, joys and griefs, the complexity of more than just a single story.
It is there that I can feel connection to their suffering through the roughness of skin and scars.
It is in this place of love and service that I realize that we belong to one another.
So I am reminded that I must wash my neighbors’ feet and let them wash mine, too.
Jocelyn A. Sideco is a retreat leader, spiritual director and innovative minister who specializes in mission-centered ministry. She directs the Community Service and Social Justice office at St. Ignatius College Preparatory in San Francisco, Calif., prays at St. Agnes Church, blogs for NCRonline.org, and consults with organizations like the Jesuit Volunteer Corps. Visit her online ecumenical ministry, In Good Company, at ingoodcompany.net.co or email her at [email protected].