After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. (John 13: 12-15)

For Jesus, the washing of another’s feet was a powerful example of his love and care for others. Even though this particular expression of humble love has not persisted into the 21st century, its spirit lives on as a symbol of putting the needs and well-being of others ahead of oneself.

In March of 2020, as the pandemic loomed large over us, the message from health experts was that the most effective strategy to protect others from the virus involved regular washing of hands. “Neutralize the coronavirus germs to prevent spreading it to others!” It was very soon after this that scientists and virologists began to conclude that the virus was airborne and not, as they believed at first, transmitted through contact such as handshakes and contaminated surfaces. The best way to care for each other quickly shifted from vigorous hand washing to consistent mask wearing. Following the science of best practices in a pandemic can seem like a moving target, not because science can’t be trusted, but because health scientists rely on tests and studies to improve their ability to give sound advice, the accuracy of which increases with each result. However, following the principle of loving one another remains constant, even when its expression might change with time.

God of breath and of inspiring love, thank you for including us in your vision of communal care of each other. Be it the practice of washing away dust from tired feet, scrubbing away germs from dirty hands, or keeping potentially infected particles to ourselves with masks, encourage our desire to care for each other, and bless our efforts to find effective and loving ways to do so. Amen.

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