It’s Maundy Thursday, and this is one of my favorite passages in the whole Bible. I am busy and tired and overwhelmed, and I don’t have more than a minute to post this morning, but I am taking that minute to imagine myself as Peter, intense, passionate, often bumbling Peter, who loves Jesus with his whole heart and mind and, one night after this exchange is going to deny Him three times.
It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.
The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.
He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”
Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”
“No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”
Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”
“Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”
Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean.
And I read this poem by Rainer Marie Rilke last night, from the book The Book of Hours: Love Poems to God, and it seems to me to be the same thing.
I live my life in widening circles
that reach out across the world.
I may not complete this last one
but I give myself to it.
I circle around God, around the primordial tower.
I’ve been circling for thousands of years
and I still don’t know: am I a falcon,
a storm, or a great song?
God at the center, Jesus offering to wash our feet as we offer ourselves, bumbling, not knowing either exactly who we are or who God is, but moving ever around and through and for God, hoping that our life is what our Creator meant it to be, washed once and for all yet still tripping and falling in the mud, rising and soaring. And through it all, always talking to the One at the center of our being, shy but eager to know our role in the Passion. We want to wash our Lord’s feet but find Him, instead, knelt over ours as we throw up our hands in confusion and praise.
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