“I give you a new commandment, says the Lord, love one another as I have loved you.” John 13:34
This scripture verse is the verse from before the Gospel for Mass of the Lord’s Supper this Holy Thursday evening. It begs the question, how did Jesus love while He walked this Earth? How did He love His disciples on the night before He died?
If you look at the Gospel for tonight, (John 13:1-15), it recounts that before they sat down to eat Jesus tied up His garments, took a pitcher and a bowl, and washed His disciples feet. At this time, everyone wore sandals and walked outside in the dusty streets. The feet He was washing were probably pretty dirty but that didn’t put Jesus off. The Gospel says,
“Fully aware that the Father had put everything into his power and that he had come from God and was returning to God, he rose from supper and took off his outer garments.”
Jesus, fully acknowledging His divinity, chose to wash His friends feet as His last act before He went to His death. In His divinity, He knew that all of them would desert and betray Him. He knew that Peter would deny Him and that Judas would turn Him in, He still chose to wash every single disciple’s feet.
This act alone, without looking beyond this evening to the suffering and crucifixion, tells us so much about how Christ loves. He loves us with humility. He lowers Himself, meeting us exactly where we are. He doesn’t shy away from the disciples probably smelly and definitely dirty feet. He doesn’t refuse to wash their feet because they are going to fail Him. He gets right down in their mess. And He doesn’t shy away from our messes either. He makes Himself the lowest to let us enter into His glory.
Authentic love, Jesus shows us, is humble service. By His example, He calls each of us to live this authentic love, not just toward Him or toward our friends and family, but to every single person we meet. The commandment He gives doesn’t say love your family as I have loved you. Jesus tells us to love one another as He has loved us. That means everyone, even your enemies. How do we do this? We serve them in humility. We accept insults, we patiently forgive those who accuse us, we let others go before us, we lower ourselves so that others can be lifted higher. We wash the feet of those who we know will betray us and at the next opportunity do it again.
Humility is a scary virtue to pray for. It’s not something we naturally desire. It makes us immediately think of being humiliated. It’s not something that I automatically think I want, but if it’s how the Lord loves, then it’s gotta be the best way. The Lord is challenging me today to pray for humility, to move past that fear, to rest in my identity as His daughter, and be willing to take that extra step to meet others where they are with His love. I’d like to extend that challenge to you today as well. Consider how you can love better in humble service those whom you love and those whom you struggle to love.