Will You Wash My Feet?

Therefore, let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ. ~ Acts 2:36, New King James Version

It was a cold, wet, snowy night in Cortez. I was volunteering at the Bridge Emergency Shelter, checking in residents, hanging up their tattered coats and second-hand backpacks, and showing them to their rooms, former jail cells, for the night. “Can I have an extra blanket?” Monte asked. “It’s cold out there.” “Sure. No problem,” I said.

After I checked each resident in, I said, “Let me know if you need anything. And we have hot chili in the kitchen if you want something to eat.”

Towards the end of my night shift, I made a round to see if the residents were O.K. Most were sleeping soundly. I put a load of wet laundry into the washing machine when the doorbell rang announcing the arrival of a late-night guest.

I slowly opened the door. I never knew who I would find on the other side. There was an old man with a snow-covered beard and icy eyelashes; he hunkered down against the bitter wind. “Can I still come in? Am I too late?” “You’re O.K. We still have a couple of rooms.”

He leaned into me, and I held him upright as we walked slowly down the hall to an available room. His clothes were wet and soiled; I turned my eyes aside. When I helped the tired old man sit down on his bed, he fell over to his side. “Hey, you need to get these wet clothes off before you go to sleep. Here are some dry sweats for the night,” I said.

“I need some help,” the old man quivered. “Can you help me?” “What do you need?” “Help me get my clothes and my boots off.” I looked again at his soiled jeans.

I pulled him upright and helped him wiggle out of his wet sweatshirt and t-shirt, and the two of us managed to get a dry shirt on with considerable effort. I unlaced his icy, muddy boots and slid them off. Next, I rolled his drenched socks off his red swollen feet covered in corns, calluses, and plantar warts. I don’t know how he walked.

We struggled to get his jeans off and some dry sweats on. I hesitated thinking about putting clean socks on the man’s mangled feet. “Will you wash my feet?” he asked. “What?” I asked in disbelief.

“Will you wash my feet?”

I thought about Jesus washing the disciples’ feet. He said if I’ve washed your feet, you should wash each other’s feet (see John 13:14). Did the old man know I was a minister? Was this some type of test of faith? Or just a coincidence? Was this beaten down old man the Living Christ?

I don’t know… Jesus also said I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat. I was a stranger and you welcomed me. I was naked and you gave me clothes (see Matthew 25). Wouldn’t Jesus say, “I was homeless, and you gave me a place to sleep. I was hungry, and you gave me some chili. My feet hurt, and you washed them for me.”?

Was this destitute man Christ?

Father Richard Rohr writes, “We see a homeless person, and the moment we allow our heart space to open toward them, they become human, dear, or even Christ.” Isn’t the Divine Presence here, there, and everywhere? In our communion liturgy we say, “Christ has died; Christ is risen; Christ will come again.” So where do we see the Living Christ?

“The four Gospels describe how the Risen Christ transcended doors, walls, spaces, water, air, and times, eating food, and sometimes even bilocating, but always interacting with matter,” says Rohr. And the disciples and people did not recognize him immediately. “Seeing and recognizing are not the same thing,” says Rohr.

Would we recognize the Living Christ if we saw him? The Gospel of Mark says, “He showed himself but under another form” (Mark 16:12). “This is a new kind of presence, a new kind of embodiment, and a new kind of godliness. The early Christians came to call this seemingly new and available Presence ‘both Lord and Christ’” (Acts 2:36) says Rohr.

“Will you wash me feet?” the down and out man said again. I held his battered, wounded feet and prayed, “Help me do this God.” I took a deep breath and paused. “Just kidding,” he said while laughing. “You don’t have to wash my feet.”

Instead, I tucked him into bed and said a prayer with him.

“A mature Christian sees Christ in everything and everyone else. That is a definition that will never fail us, always demand more of us, and give us no reasons to fight, exclude, or reject anyone,” writes Rohr.

In our prayers, may we ask God to open our hearts to the Presence of Christ, the Divine which is all around us and within us. May we follow Jesus and love who he loves. This is the way of abundant life. Amen.

Blessings and peace,


Posted in Meditations.