“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 you are clean, though not every one of you.” For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean. John 13:8-11
I heard the above reading on a Maundy Thursday and it did not move me then. Despite all the liturgical washing of feet and subsequent coverage of the Pope washing the feet of random people, I did not get much from the text then. I came across this text again recently in my daily reading. This time, the passage has riveted me. I could not move on to the next chapter. There were so many things to learn. Suddenly it became the most practical text I have read for sometime. I need to discipline myself for this post. I can only focus on one thing here. I chose to highlight the reference to Judas. It is actually the only one in the four gospels that mentions Judas’ presence in the most intimate moments of the apostles with their master. Jesus washed Judas’ feet. He served Judas from His plate. All these gestures are reserved only for the most intimate companions. John makes it clear that Jesus was always aware who Judas was and yet, there was never a change in His love towards His friend who would betray Him. John was the youngest apostle and he remembered clearly how Jesus treated Judas. He thought that it was important that the world knew this.
Every week, I write about our encounters with children and teens in the streets. I share positive experiences we have with the children because I want people to think positively about them. However, this is not the complete story. There is no negative side but there are the other children and teens. These are ones that are broken to the point that they can’t perceive human relationship in a loving manner. They function in chaos and destruction and they like to provoke and cause destruction. These are the ones that the media likes to put in the spotlight. They remove the word “children” and substitute “delinquents” to promote disgust and repulsion. I don’t usually write about these children and teens. Now is a good time to start. They are the difficult ones. Sometimes it is easy to think that they are a lost cause. However, this is not for us to decide. Jesus never tells us to go into the world and share His good news to those who have a fifty percent or more chance of being saved. We are asked to go to people of sorts and condition and share the Love that God freely pours out into this world.
Our contact with these children and teens increases on a daily basis. They approach us, but not because they want to have contact with us. They are jealous that the others interact with us and sometimes they disrupt our activities. Sometimes, they do this because they are bored. It doesn’t matter why they come to us. They are there and Jesus wants us to wash their feet in the same way He washed Judas’ feet. He wants us to share our bread with them in the same way He broke bread with Judas. He wants us to allow them to kiss us and perhaps even betray us in the same way that He allowed Judas to do the same. This is why the gospel is annoying and disturbing. It goes against our nature. We just want to work with the nice children. Alas, Jesus thinks otherwise;
“if you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:46-48
Jesus lived what He preached. If we say that Jesus is our salvation, then the way He lived His life will save us from the hatred and destruction of this world. It means changing the way we think. It doesn’t mean that we become passive and allow broken and manipulative people to take advantage of us. It doesn’t mean that we think positively about everyone and believe that they are all great and wonderful. Jesus advises us to be wise like serpents. He knew what Judas was going to do but it did not disqualify him from receiving God’s compassion and love. We need to know that there are some children and teens who suffered so much pain and destruction in their lives that they don’t know what is good and bad anymore. Perhaps, these are like the one that strayed from the flock and the Good Shepherd left the ninety-nine and went to look for this self-destructive sheep.
Thankfully they are not many. Like the parable, they are one in a hundred. These are the ones that have mental issues coupled with neglect and abuse that have given them a distorted view of life. However, regardless who they are, God invites them. Jesus would not hesitate to have them at His Table. Not to do what they please but to remind them that despite of what they want or choose to do, Love is still available to them.
It is important for our own souls that we learn to wash the feet of these children and teens. I have to confess that it is not something that I would do voluntarily. This is why Jesus made it clear. If we follow Him, then we have to learn how to wash the feet of those who are not pleasant or grateful. They can even be destructive. However, they cannot destroy what God is doing. The apostle John saw how Jesus treated Judas. It is not a coincidence that he was the apostle most impressed by God’s compassion and love. We may not be able to do much for these wounded children and teens, but then again, maybe God will do something though us to help them. We will never know. However, the others are watching. They want to know how to treat these unlikeable and destructive people around them. The world reacts with violence. Jesus responds by washing and feeding Judas. The choice is clear and the eyes of the children are upon us.
God, please give us the grace and strength to do the right thing.