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Keara HanlonApril 14, 2022
Pope Francis kisses the foot of an inmate during Holy Thursday Mass at Regina Coeli prison in Rome in this March 29, 2018, file photo. (CNS photo/Vatican Media) 

A Reflection for the Thursday of Holy Week


“If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet,
you ought to wash one another’s feet.
I have given you a model to follow,
so that as I have done for you, you should also do” (Jn 13:14-15).

It has been said that the way to the heart is through the stomach, but how about through the feet?

Six in the morning. My college roommate’s alarm cuts into my dream, stirring me from the kind of deep sleep that only a university student can achieve. Theresa pulls on warm clothes in the dark, preparing to take the green line into the city to volunteer with the Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program. There, she will spend her morning washing the feet of some of Boston’s 6,000 people experiencing homelessness while checking their vitals and administering critical preventative care measures.

I, on the other hand, will roll back over and snooze until she returns home.

It has been said that the way to the heart is through the stomach, but how about through the feet?

When I hear today’s Gospel, this is the memory that comes to my mind. I think of Theresa, kneeling on the floor, tending to the feet of those without a warm place to stay. Cleaning their feet, caring for their wounds and creating connection with a person who may be feeling very alone—caring for the whole person, starting with their feet.

It was not a glamorous job. Oftentimes in the winter, Theresa’s patients were experiencing the impacts of frostbite on their toes, foot infections caused by constant dampness in their shoes from the snow and swelling around their ankles. Even well-cared-for feet don’t tend to smell very good, and these were feet that had trod difficult paths through slush and snow and mud without washing.

But this foot care is a critical aspect of the work Boston Health Care for the Homeless does. It is dignifying. It builds trust. It opens a door to providing other kinds of care—everything from checking vital signs, to administering blood pressure medication to providing vaccines during flu season. By offering to wash people’s feet, Boston Health Care for the Homeless is able to significantly decrease hospitalizations among their patient population.

In the Gospel reading today, Jesus is demonstrating servant leadership, humbling himself to wash the feet of his own disciples and encouraging his followers to do the same for one another. I cannot imagine a more literal interpretation of the Gospel than the work that the Boston Healthcare for the Homeless Program is doing.

Maybe, like me, you don’t like feet. How can we live out today’s Gospel? We can start by remembering that we’re not too good to take care of one another.

But maybe, like me, you don’t like feet. How can we live out today’s Gospel?

We can start by remembering that we’re not too good to take care of one another.

Who deserves our care and compassion? The answer is easy: everyone. The action is harder.

If the son of God can wash the feet of his followers, then no one is beneath us: not the neighbor whose politics we disagree with, not the coworker who drives us crazy and not the person experiencing homelessness whose feet could really use a wash. Servant leadership begins with humility and ends in actions based in love.

To learn more about the Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program, or to make a gift to their organization this Holy Thursday, please visit their website.

Get to know Keara Hanlon, O’Hare Postgraduate Media Fellow


What are you giving up for Lent?

Normally, I would probably give up sweet tea (because I am truly addicted). However, discussions with other staff members this Lent have encouraged me to focus on the joy of the resurrection rather than on the suffering that seems to pervade the season, so I’m not giving something up this year. The anniversary of a friend’s suicide overlaps with Lent each year, and this can make it all too easy to focus on the sadness in the season. This year, I’m trying extra hard to focus on the promise of eternal life that comes from Jesus’ sacrifice and God’s mercy.

Favorite non-meat recipe

A New York dollar slice of cheese pizza always hits the spot.

Favorite Lent Easter hymn

The gospel song “God So Loved the World” gives me chills. Its lyrics offer a beautiful balance between acknowledging the sacrifice and suffering present in Christ’s death while also truly celebrating the resurrection, which is sometimes overlooked.

Favorite Easter Photo

As always, I am the cute one.

Keara Easter
More: Lent / Scripture

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