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“Love is my true identity. Selflessness is my true self. Love is my true character. Love is my name.”

These words from Thomas Merton seem appropriate for this Maundy Thursday, as they give us a sounding for who we are – or at least who we can and should be – as Christians.

Imagine for a moment what it was like that night. A sense of expectation is in the air. Jesus is with his friends gathered around the table. There is talk of love. There is talk of the betrayal of that love. And even though betrayal rushes out the door to do its bidding, there is a sense of peace and quiet stillness as the disciples hang on every word. Not unlike the fragrance that filled the room when Mary bathed Jesus’ feet with expensive nard at her house in Bethany, the upper room is filled with the aroma of sacredness. Something big is happening.

Imagine for a moment that you are there as Jesus’ words fill the room. Imagine the moment when his eyes meet yours. What do you see? Heaven? For the past three years he has been teaching us, guiding us to this moment – guiding us to the kingdom of heaven within us. And now the only thing left to do is to demonstrate the love he teaches. So, he ties the servant towel around himself and simply, lovingly, begins to wash our feet.

The wetness of the water, the gentle touch of love in response to the shy offering of these intimate parts of ourselves, the caring way he softly dries our feet – all are the quiet language of love. We feel cleansed and loved in a way like never before. We now know something new about ourselves and about God that we can’t put into words. The kingdom of heaven is like that.

When Jesus asks the disciples if they knew what he had done for them, you get the feeling that he already knew the answer, that he knows that we will never fully understand the import of this radical, intimate, touch of love until we do the same for others, and that’s exactly what he tells us to do – to love others as he has loved us – to go into the world and wash each other’s feet.

We live in a world today that needs examples of love. Our world is too often dominated by war, greed, and violence. Aggression and oppression too often seem to win the day. But Jesus stands before us demonstrating that it need not be so. He kneels before us with our feet in his hands to say that in the end, love wins.

This is why this moment is so important. We get clear, hands-on instruction about how to live as Jesus lived. In this holy exchange of tenderness – both in offering our feet, and receiving those of our friends, each of us can experience the tenderness of God’s love when we come forward for the washing of our feet. We get to show this incredible love for one another here in our base community first. We get to experience what Jesus knew – that our salvation is found in the intimate moments of our lives – in each tender touch, and every compassionate act. Then, we can move into the world where billions of aching feet await our healing touch.

Jesus is clear that we are to love one another as he loves us. It is as simple and profound as that. And I’m pretty sure that when he said “one another,” he means the whole world.

We don’t have to go far to find opportunities to bring our healing touch to the world. Jesus said that the poor and suffering will always be with us. We need look no further than the streets of our own community. Surely foot-washing opportunities are in our prisons, hospitals, and soup kitchens, but they can also be found in in simple moments of our everyday life. People in need of tenderness are all around us.

You can see it in the widow and widower who now lives with only memories, or those whose memory is betraying them. You can see it in the lost teen searching for their way and the sleepless nights of their parents and grandparents. You can see it in those who struggle to loosen the grip of addiction, and those whose only home is the streets. It is seen in the waning hope of prisoners sentenced to die, and in the agony brought on by the atrocity of war.

The world is in serious need of a tender touch. The world needs instruments of love. The world needs us.

Keep watch. Slow down. Look around. If you look close enough into the eyes of our brothers and sisters, you will see it. The yearning. The longing for connection. The need to be healed. You just might see your own longing reflected to you. You just might see Jesus.

Now imagine taking his feet in your hands.

“Love is my true identity. Selflessness is my true self. Love is my true character. Love is my name.”

Brother Dennis

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