Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.

April 14, 2022


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Exodus 12:1-4, (5-10), 11-14  |  1 Corinthians 11:23-26  |  John 13:1-17, 31b-35  |  Psalm 116:1, 10-17

It has been many years since I first set foot in the sanctuary of St. Luke’s. The day was the baptism of my niece, Juliana. Oh, a wonderful day it was!

Not too long after, I decided to make St. Luke’s my church. My daughter Emma, a first grader, would join me as we walked our faith journey together. Emma would join the children’s choir under the direction of Priscilla Rigg. And I would soon team up with Brad and Bruce to become The Three Amigos.

With guitars we would lead “church school” music sing-alongs on Sunday mornings, often with moms, dads, and their children. Priscilla knew a good thing with she saw it: We would energize many of the younger parishioners in song, and it would inevitably lead to them signing up for either the Angel or St. Cecilia choirs. I am not sure who enjoyed these morning sing-alongs more, the little kids or us bigger ones!

Soon my son Oliver would be old enough to join Emma and me as faithful St. Luke’s parishioners. Both Emma and Ollie became very involved in church stuff: everything from the choir and youth faith formation to Dominican Republic mission trips. Once my kids were launched at St. Luke’s, I made my way to joining Priscilla’s Canterbury adult choir alongside my fellow Amigos, Brad and Bruce.

Why am I sharing this journey with you? Well, for many years I have attended Maundy Thursday services. But it wasn’t until Father Tim’s arrival that St. Luke’s made a “Seder” part of the Maundy Thursday experience. It is one of Father Tim’s most cherished church calendar days of the year.

For years, under the cloak of “my choir responsibilities,” I never, ever had my feet washed or washed anyone else’s feet on Maundy Thursday. What was my problem? Smelly, ugly, sweaty bare feet, perhaps a feeling shared by other parishioners? Or was it me just not wanting to inconvenience or discomfort myself?

One day, in John’s Gospel, Jesus’s words finally spoke to me: “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.” Ouch!

To this day, I still remember my very first Maundy Thursday foot washing: I washed Lisa’s feet and Bruce washed my feet. The experience was cathartic. I always felt I was a good Christian, but now I finally got the humility part of the Jesus journey. This God, this man, who lives in me and every woman and man that walks this Earth.

Heck, I recall the next year not only washing feet and being washed; I remained in the sanctuary praying after the end of the service until midnight. Sans cell phone. This Maundy Thursday experience had finally sunk in. I was getting it. 

The COVID pandemic has caused much pain in the world for more than two years. However, to paraphrase Peter Gomes, author of the book* we are currently reading in Adult Faith Formation, what’s bad news for some is good news for others, and vice versa. The once-in-a-lifetime horror of COVID (pretty bad news) provided me and many others (choir members) access to Adult Faith Formation for the first time via Wednesday evening Zoom meetings (pretty good news). And those meetings and many books written by bright and worldly people have led this humble human to a profound realization: After traipsing around planet Earth for over 64 years, I may be getting a glimpse of what Jesus is saying to us!

Bit by bit.

Foot by foot. 

Rob Walsh

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*The Scandalous Gospel of Jesus: What’s So Good About the Good News? By Peter J. Gomes