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Showing love as Jesus did when he washed his disciples’ feet


Marcell Faber

Theresa Civantos Barber - published on 03/27/24

Reflecting on Jesus washing his disciples’ feet that first Holy Thursday is helping me enjoy my kids more and feel happier in motherhood.

This Holy Week, reflecting on Jesus washing his disciples’ feet on that first Holy Thursday is helping me enjoy my kids more and feel happier in motherhood. Here’s the whole story.

First, what exactly happened on that holy night? Here is part of the Scripture passage explaining the foot washing scene (there is more to it, but this was the part that resonated with me):

Before the feast of Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come
to pass from this world to the Father.
He loved his own in the world and he loved them to the end.
…he rose from supper and took off his outer garments.
He took a towel and tied it around his waist.
Then he poured water into a basin
and began to wash the disciples’ feet
and dry them with the towel around his waist.
…So when he had washed their feet
and put his garments back on and reclined at table again,
he said to them, “Do you realize what I have done for you?
You call me ‘teacher’ and ‘master,’ and rightly so, for indeed I am.
If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet,
you ought to wash one another’s feet.
I have given you a model to follow,
so that as I have done for you, you should also do.”

That last line especially struck me: “As I have done for you, you should also do.”

Whatever you do for the least …

Long-time readers will know that one of my favorite transformative ways to understand my parenting vocation is to hold onto Christ’s words that “Whatever you do for the least of these, you do for me.” After all, so much of caregiving is practicing the works of mercy (as this sweatshirt cleverly shows!). 

Thinking that I’m doing these things for Christ in the persons of my children helps me to keep a good attitude while changing diapers and wiping noses.

As I read the Holy Thursday Gospel reading, I thought about how Jesus washed his disciples’ feet to show them his love, an act so similar to many caregiving tasks I do for my kids every day. What would it look like if I turned routine moments of caring for my kids into a chance to show them my love for them?

Little moments of love

I started looking for little ways to connect with my kids at moments that used to be kind of irritating. I even started trying to say things like “I love helping you,” instead of showing annoyance at yet another request.

Instead of rushing through changing a diaper, I could smile, laugh, and sing to my baby to make the icky task something sweet and happy for both of us.

Washing my daughter’s hair, brushing my son’s teeth, buckling their car seats, getting them dressed, taking my newly potty-trained toddler to use the bathroom for the umpteenth time in one outing… You get the idea. Each of those moments can become an opportunity to look at my child, smile, and remember how much I love them.  

It’s not an automatic response, but I’m working to see these routine moments of caregiving as a gift. Each one is a chance to show my kids love, to “love our own to the end.” And with this little shift toward connection, I notice feeling happier and enjoying motherhood more too. 

Of course, caregiving isn’t just for parents! Perhaps you care for an elderly relative, or you work as a nurse caring for sick patients in a hospital, or you are a caregiver for a person with disabilities. 

Whatever the situation, may Christ’s act of foot washing be a model for our own acts of service to become, as Mother Teresa would say, “small things [done] with great love.”

Devotions and FeastsHoly WeekParenting
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