Foot Washing and Equal Rights

Foot Washing and Equal Rights March 28, 2013

The whole world is clucking again about “equality” and “equal rights.” It is not wrong to fight for “equality” and “equal rights” but the problem is that these are very emotive and vague terms. Most anyone who feels aggrieved in some way, or even worse, most anyone who is feeling somewhat envious, can start a campaign for equality and equal rights and who can say “No!”.

Indeed, to say “No” to anyone in our society for any reason at all is likely to bring down upon you a lawsuit and a demand for equality.I notice, however, that no one is intent on being equal to those who are inferior. The demand for equal rights has become rather like the stamping of the foot of a spoiled child who wants what the other child has simply because the other child’s got it and he hasn’t.

What would it be like, on the other hand, if we stood the whole crazy world upside down and started demanding equality with those who are our inferiors? What if our whole world were to be ordered in such a way that those who were on top were the servants of those below?

As it happens, the Christian gospel is so ordered. It is the topsy turvy, table turning kingdom of Christ the Servant-King, and it’s illustrated by the washing of feet on this Holy Thursday. What other religion dares to state such a paradox in the world of men? Only the one founded by the Son of Man. What other religion or ideology proposes that the top dog serves the underdog? Even the Queen of England–who still gives out Maundy Money has given up on the foot washing part of the ancient ceremony. “Here peasant–have a bag of gold instead…”

But our Pope–and every Catholic priest tonight– shows the world a different way. Here we say, “I believe not only in equality, but in something called service. I serve you not simply because we are equal in some bland way,  but because we are equal in dignity. We are both sons of the most high. This is the equality of the gospel: an equality that gives up equality to lowers itself in a virtue far greater than equality: the virtue of humility.


Browse Our Archives