9 April, 2020

He then poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and dry them with the towel around his waist.

~ John 13:4 ~

Exodus 12:1-8,11-14; Psalm 116; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26; John 13:1-15

My friend Nomvula was feeling sad and had asked me to be with her and her family to perform a ritual with her father. He was very sick and the family felt a sense of urgency that this ritual take place with all present.


Nomvula told me that she found it hard to think that this ritual might be their last one together as a family. During the preparation, Nomvula was conscious of her deep sadness.


I thought about Simon Peter. In my mind’s eye I could see Peter getting irritable with Jesus at the Last Supper, and not wanting to partake in the ritual Jesus performed. Peter objected to Jesus washing his feet. Peter says, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus replies, “If I do not wash you, you can have no share with me.” (John 13:8) I thought about Nomvula going into the ritual for her father, her fear that it would be her last ritual with him,  her fear of being overwhelmed by her sadness and by the family’s emotions. Like Peter, there are parts of her that did not want to participate as she knew that her deep fears for her father would be brought to the surface in the ritual.


Rituals enable us to bring our fears, restlessness, sadness, and pain to the surface. In recognising what ritual symbolises, we affirm our own reality and ask for the grace to let go. We need to hear Jesus’ gentle affirmation. His words to Peter are just the kind of assurance we need when we feel sad, restless, oversensitive or confused. Remember Jesus’ words: “You too are clean.” Jesus gives us the strength to face our fears. We should not be afraid.


A ritual is also a remembrance process that helps us to begin to integrate into a new reality. Nothing will be lost. When we allow ourselves to enter into ritual, we start to see things differently. The gift of the merciful Jesus consoles Peter and he will do the same for us. What fears, restlessness, sadness or pain do I need consolation for today?


Lord Jesus,


As you continue to wash our feet in love, let your cleansing hands help us recognise your love and mercy active in our lives.




Catholic Parliamentary

Liaison Office

Jesuit Institute
South Africa

This reflection has been adapted from Have Mercy, O Lord! Daily Reflections for Lent by Grant Tungay SJ, Russell Pollitt SJ, Annemarie Paulin-Campbell, Puleng Matsaneng, Anthony Egan SJ and Frances Correia, & published by the Jesuit Institute South Africa in 2016.

Reflection prepared by

Fr Matthew Charlesworth SJ

Fr Matthew Charlesworth SJ entered the Society of Jesus in 2005 and underwent the usual course of studies in his formation, which took him to such varied places as Canada, France, Ireland, Kenya, Spain, Tanzania, the United Kingdom, the United States, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and South Africa. Whilst working at the Institute, Matthew managed the background technical aspects of much of the Institute's work and was involved in the Spirituality work, completing the Advanced Spiritual Directors Training Course and the Spiritual Exercises Training run by the Institute. He is a member of Spiritual Directors International and was also a part-time lecturer in Sacred Scripture at St Augustine College of South Africa. He is currently the Director of Communications for the Jesuits in Southern Africa, based in Lusaka, Zambia.

m.charlesworth@jesuitinstitute.org.za @mcharlesworth
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