Bishop on Washing of Feet: ‘Christ teaches us forgiveness’

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PARAÑAQUE City, April 18, 2014—Taking his cue from Scripture, Parañaque Bishop Jesse Eugenio Mercado headed Maundy Thursday’s “Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper” at the Cathedral Parish of St. Andrew where he washed the feet of chosen faithful in pious imitation of what the Lord “so humbly did for the forgiveness of sins”.

“By this simple act of humility, Christ demonstrates in a most visceral way to each one of us the value of forgiveness,” Mercado said.

Mercado, who also chairs the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines-Episcopal Commission on the Laity (CBCP-ECLA), noted that this solemn rite is Jesus’ own highly symbolic example of teaching humility.

Pope Francis washes the feet of a juvenile detainee at Casal del Marmo on March 28, 2013. (Photo: L'Osservatore Romano)

Dirt, sin

“As the part of our body that is most likely to get dirty, the foot is a fitting metaphor for every sinner in the world. When the Lord took it humbly upon Himself to wash the feet of His Apostles, He was, in effect, telling them that their sins had been forgiven,” he said.

Mercado also emphasized how the particular Gospel story points to a manner of living that every Christian should aspire to.                                                                                                                       

“If God lowered Himself for us, what reason have we not to be able to do the same? If He can forgive, then it follows that nothing should prevent us from extending that same forgiveness to others. Therefore, let us wash each other’s feet no matter how hard and painful it may often seem,” Mercado said.

Lest the faithful take this message amiss, the bishop pointed out that the gesture did in no way degrade Jesus, but did rather the opposite.

“All the more it affirms God’s glory and selfless love for all humanity. It extolls Him, because it is in humbling Himself that we have attained salvation,” he explained.

The first holy mass

This traditional “Washing of the Feet” is based on the Gospel according to St. John 13:1-17 where it reads, ”If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.”

In a scene that melted the hearts of many around the world, including non-Catholics, Pope Francis washed and kissed the feet of a dozen inmates at a juvenile detention center in Rome during a Maundy Thursday mass in 2013.

Besides the “Washing of the Feet”, the occasion also marked the anniversary of the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist which recalls the first Maundy Thursday more than 2,000 years back when Christ instituted the sacrament on the eve of His crucifixion. (Raymond A. Sebastián)


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