Ours is a God of boundless generosity and humility. How much does he love us? He becomes less so that we can be more.

“Do you realize what I have done for you?”

What a question. For this night. And for the days to come.

Most of us know that in the time of Christ, on the night this happened, washing feet was a job relegated to a slave.

People would arrive at someone’s home after walking a great distance. They didn’t have socks. If they wore shoes at all, they were just sandals. The roads were dirt, or mud, or cobblestones. After a day on the road, feet would be caked with dust and grime, maybe even garbage or manure.

Washing feet was a thankless, miserable chore. It was the last thing anyone wanted to do.

And yet: Jesus did it.

He didn’t have to.

But he did. He got down into the muck of life. He did the work of a slave.

And he called on his apostles to do the same.

What Jesus did stands before us as a defining example of humility and sacrifice, of service and love. It tells us that to be an apostle of Christ means we must be willing to get down on our knees for another.

In a few moments, we will re-enact this washing of the feet in what this liturgy calls the “mandatum,” or mandate.  That mandate comes from the Gospel acclamation: “I give you a new commandment…love one another as I have loved you.” In the washing of the feet, Jesus gives us the model to follow, and explains “as I have done for you, you should also do.”

It is a tall order.

Do we realize what he has done for us?

A few years ago, I read about a young couple who had a beautiful and lavish wedding. It proved to be unforgettable — but not in the way that some guests expected.

During the reception, they cleared the dance floor and the bride sat in a chair. She lifted the hem of her wedding gown. Her new husband knelt down before her. People assumed he was about to remove her garter and toss it to his groomsmen.

But he didn’t.

Instead, his best man brought him a basin and a towel. And the groom washed the feet of the bride.

In the years since, I’ve heard of this being done again and again, sometimes with the wife also washing the feet of her new husband. It’s become popular, especially in the South. When you think ab out it, it really is a bold witness, almost countercultural. It echoes the familiar words of “The Servant Song”:

“Let me be your servant. Let me be as Christ to you.”

Here is selflessness and sacrifice within marriage, modeled on Christ, what he showed us in the last hours of his earthly life.

Here is a declaration of love without limits.

“Do you realize what I have done for you?”

I suspect that couple would answer “Yes.”

In one sense, to wash the feet of someone else is to remove the dust and debris and the grit of life — to cleanse, to renew, to restore.

But in a deeper sense, it challenges us to something more.

It says the Christian life is not about standing above anyone. It is about bending. Giving. Serving. Restoring newness and hope.

This night tells us to never lose sight of this vital fact:  we are a Church of service. Christ showed us as much at the very beginning.

And this is our mandate. To help heal the wounded, mend the broken, uplift the weary. To wash away what is old and, as the scripture tells us, “make all things new.”

Jesus showed us the way.

People are sometimes surprised that at this liturgy, the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, we don’t hear a Gospel reading about the institution of the Eucharist.

In fact, in many ways, I think we do.

During the Last Supper, the Son of God, the second person of the Trinity, lowered himself. Jesus gave himself to his apostles and to the world under the appearance of something as ordinary and humble as a piece of bread.

But he wasn’t finished. When the meal was over, Jesus again lowered himself. He got down on his knees, becoming a slave, to wash feet, to do what no one else wanted to do.

The reality of that should take our breath away. Ours is a God of boundless generosity and humility. How he loves us.

He becomes less so that we can be more.

“Do you realize what I have done for you?”

Lord, we are not worthy.

This is what the days of this sacred Triduum are all about:

These days are about remembering what Christ gave us. What he did for us. What we are called to do, what we are called to be.

Across these three days, remember this.

As we walk with Jesus to the garden tonight, to sit and ponder and pray…

As we follow him tomorrow to Calvary…

As we wait in the long silence outside the tomb …

Remember this. Remember the defining question of this night.

“Do you realize what I have done for you?”

He became less so that we can be more.

He got down on his knees for us.

That should bring us to our knees for him — and, ultimately, for our weary, wounded world.