I give you a model to follow
Updated: May 26
By Nicole McAlee, M.S.
Nicole McAlee is an SMM & O'Hara Alum and a Graduate of the University of Notre Dame. She is a Program Manager at the Notre Dame IBM Technology Ethics Lab. This post originally appeared on the Faith ND and is printed on our website with the author's permission. Our many gifted and dedicated graduates so inspire us.
I love hosting guests in my apartment. I relish tidying up, cooking an elaborate meal, and, if my guests stay with me for the night, providing fresh towels and making up a cozy place to rest. Even though offering hospitality to friends and family is one of my greatest joys, I've never offered to wash my guests' feet upon arrival!
In first-century Palestine, where most people traveled by foot in sandals on dusty roads, offering guests clean water and a basin to wash their feet was an expected gesture of hospitality. If the host was exceptionally wealthy, they would have a servant wash their guests' feet.
The symbolism is obvious to us now, but knowing this context, we can understand why the disciples were so shocked at Jesus humbling himself to wash their feet. Jesus then goes even further, mandating that the disciples "ought to wash one another's feet." Even though they call him "'teacher' and 'master,'" Jesus demonstrates to the disciples that a willingness to serve others with love is at the core of his ministry.
Jesus also calls us to perform acts of radical self-sacrifice for each other. Like washing another's feet, these gestures are often unglamorous, humbling, and even unpleasant on the surface.
Reflecting on the joy that hosting brings me, I recognize that it's easy to offer comfort to my own family and friends, but today's gospel challenges me to do more. How can I comfort people who are poor, physically or mentally ill, incarcerated, marginalized, or suffering? I can start with Jesus, who said, "I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do."
Loving God, give us the humility and courage to do for others what you have done for us!