TWJ Week 6: Looking inside
Excerpts from The Scandal of Service: Jesus washes our feet, p. 16, 18-19
Jesus washes the feet of his disciples not before the meal, which could have been a Jewish custom of purification, but during the meal. Imagine the disciples' surprise when they saw Jesus get up and take off his outer garments in the middle of the Passover meal, which was a particularly solemn occasion. They must have looked at each other in amazement: "What is he doing now?" It was such a strange action!...
As Jesus removes his garments, he is stripping himself as well of any function or social status. Of course, he is Jewish and a teacher and a prophet, so he does have authority and power. But here he presents himself to his disciples just as a person, a friend. Before being Lord and teacher, he is a heart seeking to meet other hearts, a friend yearning to be in communion with friends, a loving person seeking to live in the heart of his friends.
In this domain of the heart, all people are alike. There is no visible hierarchy one could signify by dress. People with or without visible handicaps, the poor and the rich, the young and the old, people with AIDS or in good health, they all are alike and they all have the same dignity. Each one's life and history are sacred. Each person is unique and important. The only hierarchy that remains is one of love, and that remains hidden. (Is that really a hierarchy?) Each person's heart is a mystery. A man in prison may in fact be more loving than his guard or judge, a woman with a handicap more loving than her teacher, or an immigrant more loving than somebody in high office. So at the end of our lives we will be judged by how we have loved, and not by our clothes, or the masks society has imposed on us. We will be judged according to who we really are and not on our job or role in society. As Jesus removes his outer garments, he is reminding us of what is most important in life: our hearts.
This society enjoys placing people into boxes. By labeling someone, the need to actually take time to get to know them becomes unnecessary. It seems easier to give out labels and apply stereotypes. We assume we know what people are like based on the arbitrary roles others have assigned them. As Jean wrote, every person is unique and valuable, and thus deserves the chance to be known. There is very little that physical traits can say about someone's personality. It is important to not lose sight of what matters – the gifts of the heart and soul.