Foot washing symbolizes call to serve one another

“If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet.”  – John 13:14    

LOWELL – Parishioners of St. Edward gathered for a Mass of the Lord's Supper on March 28, not only to think about the significance of the Last Supper of Jesus Christ but to reflect on its greater meaning – the sacrifice of Jesus as the Lamb of God and the gift of the Eucharist. 
“Faithful Catholics understand that the Eucharist is our Lord – body, blood, soul and divinity – under the appearances of bread and wine,” said Father Richard Holy, pastor of St. Edward. “It is food for our soul and is the source and summit of our Catholic faith: that from which everything flows, and that to which everything is directed.”
He added that the beauty of the Mass of the Lord's Supper is not only in the celebration of the institution of the Eucharist and the priesthood but also in the emphasis on the servant nature of the priesthood as proclaimed in the Gospel reading that evening from St. John and demonstrated in the Washing of the Feet in imitation of the Lord.
Father Holy called attention to the image on the front of the altar at St. Edward which depicts the Last Supper – but it is not the traditional image by artist Leonardo da Vinci. It still includes the Lord and the apostles gathered at the table, but those who look closely will also notice a basin and a towel.
“This representation of the Last Supper beautifully represents the Eucharist and the loving service to one another that the Eucharist empowers us to do in imitation of Christ,” he said.
During the homily, Bishop Robert J. McClory reminded those in the church that Jesus is the Lamb of God, as first pointed out by John the Baptist. And that through faith in him, people are given new life, eternal life.
“Jesus gives us the great gift of the Eucharist on this very night and so we rejoice that this is what the Lord has done for us,” he said. “And when we receive the body and blood of our Lord, we should never take for granted this tremendous gift.”
The bishop explained that on the evening of the Last Supper, Jesus knew he would be betrayed. He knew his followers were going to be afraid, confused and troubled. He prepared them “by giving them his very self and instituting the Holy Eucharist for all of us so it would strengthen them for the challenges that would come, so they would be nourished, so they could live the life they were called to live.”
“We believe the one sacrifice that occurred on Calvary, given to us today, is all that is necessary,” he said. “And when we feast upon our Lord here, it’s not just a symbol. It’s really Jesus in his love and his mercy given to us so that we can be nourished.”
Bishop McClory went on to say that the Gospel of John provides more context on what it means to receive the Eucharist. 
“We are strengthened not just so we can satisfy our own needs, but the other lesson is fraternal charity or brotherly and sisterly love,” he said. 
An example of this, Bishop McClory pointed out, is the Washing of the Feet. The bishop recalled seeing his father having his feet washed during Mass when he was young, and later he was also selected as a young adult. While Bishop McClory admitted the act may appear uncomfortable at first, he grew to understand the beauty of it.
“Today the witness that we will soon see is to give tangible expression to our need to love each other,” he said, “and to remind ourselves of that same love that Jesus gave to his disciples at the Last Supper he gives to us today.” 
The individuals chosen for the Washing of the Feet were selected by deacons Bill Hathaway and Bob Mendoza and represented both English and Spanish-speaking members of the parish family. 
Parishioner Rosa Aguiler said she felt humbled to be one of those to be picked to have their feet washed during the service because she knew Jesus had done that for his disciples and the bishop doing that to her, “I felt like everything I’ve done Jesus still chose me “
“I feel unworthy but at the same time blessed that maybe there is still hope with what I’m doing,” she said. “I’m trying to take Jesus’ example to be a better server within the community and my own family.”
With the weather cooperating, Aguilera and others in attendance joined in a Eucharistic Procession after Mass, walking outside around the parish. After the reposition of the Eucharist from the monstrance and final prayer, the parish ended the night with a Tenebrae service.


Caption: Bishop Robert J. McClory observed Holy Thursday with the congregation of St. Edward in Lowell, presiding over an evening Mass of the Lord's Supper. The service included the reading of John 13, a Washing of the Feet, a Eucharist Procession around parish grounds and adoration. (Erin Ciszczon photo)