Fr. Stephen Van Lal Than

Pope Francis kisses the foot of an inmate after washing it during the Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper at a prison in Civitavecchia, Italy, April 14, 2022. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

The Lord teaches how to serve


Perhaps one of the greatest gifts Jesus gave to us is powerfully and dramatically presented to us in John’s Gospel – specifically, John 13:1-5. In the humble act of washing feet, Jesus teaches us how to serve.

I read somewhere once that there are three kinds of assistance we can offer others in order to show our love of neighbor. We can help them, we can fix their problem, or we can serve them.

It is only by serving our neighbor that we show them that we are connected to them. Simply helping people or just fixing their problems is a good thing – don’t get me wrong. But sometimes these kinds of acts can be patronizing or makes people feel indebted to the one who assists – and this is never a good thing.

Serving, however, truly connects and heals both the giver and the receiver. Jesus uses the words “serve” and “servant” dozens of times in the New Testament. In the powerful scene from John, Jesus, after washing his disciples’ feet, asks them if they realize what he has done. Some of the disciples might have said, “Well, you helped me get my feet clean.” Others might have said, “Well, you certainly have fixed my stinky-feet problem.” But the correct answer is, “You have taught us how to serve.”

Indeed, Jesus has demonstrated the radical form of love we are to put into practice if we are to be his followers. We are to become one with our sisters and brothers in need; we are to serve them. This is the kind of action that comes forth naturally when we believe—as Jesus did—in the radical equality of all human beings. 

Dcn. Jay W. VanHoosier is the Director of Faith Formation for the Diocese of Owensboro. For more information visit, email [email protected] or call (270) 852-8324.

Originally printed in the December 2022 issue of The Western Kentucky Catholic.

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