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Most Humbling. Article by Debby Efurd.

On Maundy Thursday this year, Pope Francis washed the feet of 12 women at a prison in Rome during a ceremony emphasizing humility. This was a first for the pope to wash the feet of women only during the special annual service.

Pope Francis led the ceremony at Rebibbia prison in Rome, washing the feet of each of the women from his wheelchair, many of whom were in tears as he did so. The foot-washing ritual seeks to imitate Jesus Christ’s washing of his disciples’ feet the night before he was crucified.

Scripture tells us in John 13: 1-17: It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.  The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus.  Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”  “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”  “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”  Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.”  For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not everyone was clean. When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them.  “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am.  Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.  I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.  Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.  Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.”

To wash someone’s feet is humbling and emotional for the giver as well as the receiver. The giver is showing his servant’s heart,yielding to being a disciple, while the receiver experiences unspeakable depths of love and gratitude while feeling  unworthy. When hubby was ordained a deacon, they had a foot-washing service. Everyone in the entire church was crying buckets of tears.

I experienced something similar. In 2008, my church’s choir and orchestra volunteered to hold a Christmas party for the homeless in the DFW area. It was held at the Dallas Convention Center in cooperation with Operation Care International. More than 10,000 would be attending.

There were several ways to serve that day … in the food line for a hot lunch, haircuts, clothing, showering and toiletries, shoes and socks, and …  you got it … foot-washing.  I got in the shortest line I could find, thinking it was the line for shoes and socks, but it turned out to be foot-washing. I wanted to back out and go elsewhere, but I realized they needed help. Since foot health is so important to the homeless, only licensed cosmetologists could do the actual washing. I was there to assist and get supplies.

The clients we met felt defeated. At first they wouldn’t look you in the eye. Gradually, as conversation picked up, their defensive walls (and ours) came down. When finished, we had the privilege and honor to pray with each of our new “friends.” I was certainly glad I didn’t wear mascara that day, as I would have had black tears down my cheeks.

My shift ended after four hours. As I exited the convention center to my car, there was still a long line out the door of homeless waiting to enter. As I passed by, I looked to my left and saw a gentleman I had worked with in a large law firm. He was an attorney then, but now, apparently homeless. My first thought was that could be me … there but by the Grace of God go I.

My husband and I are learning so much about the disenfranchised and homelessness. We believe this is what Jesus would want of us and exemplifies what He did on earth.

Debby Efurd is co-founder of Cary John Efurd Ministries of Pittsburg, TX. She has been a contributor to Bound for Life and written numerous articles published in LifeNews, Christian Post and the Baptist Standard, and is the author of Go Tell It!  Debby can be contacted at  

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