Maundy Thursday: To Serve is to Love

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

—John 13:34-35

This is the commandment Jesus gave to his disciples as he humbly washed their feet during the Last Supper, just hours before he would humble himself even further by his crucifixion.

The act of washing someone else’s feet was and still is an incredibly humbling one, and clearly demonstrates Jesus’ love for his disciples. By lowering himself to the position of a servant, Jesus displays the level of humility and service we are called to exhibit for others – no matter what.

I can only imagine how difficult it would have been for the disciples to allow Jesus – the King of kings and Lord of lords – to kneel at their feet in this way. Think about Judas Iscariot, the Betrayer; or Peter, the Denier; or any of the other disciples. He considered them as his friends and loved them in spite of their imperfections. On that fateful night, Jesus made it plain to us all. To serve is to love – no matter what.

Last winter, Dr. Daniella Flamenco was invited to share her story with the staff of Episcopal Relief & Development. Daniella runs the Episcopal Diocese of El Salvador’s health program, traveling with her small but committed team to bring health care and education to 60 communities in the country’s rural hills. El Salvador deals with issues of extreme poverty and gang violence (it has the infamous distinction of having the second highest murder rate in the world, according to the World Bank) and Daniella must constantly navigate how to carry out her ministry while keeping herself and her colleagues safe from harm.

As Daniella spoke of her of passion, dedication and love for her work and community, I began to weep. For me, this was an encounter with what Jesus demonstrated for his disciples. I witnessed what foot-washing looks like in the 21st century. Daniella is committed to God’s call to serve, regardless of the dangers of violence and limitations of a lean budget and a modest-sized staff. What she has in abundance ­– skill, determination and faith – enables her to be a light in the darkness, encouraging and strengthening communities to regain their health and vibrancy.

In an interview with Mike Smith, Major Gifts Officer for Episcopal Relief & Development, Daniella closed with these profound words: “I believe God wants to keep me here,” she said.  “It’s part of my life. I don’t even think about it. But God will tell me when it’s time.”

El Salvador: Mobile Health Clinic Video Link



Pamela Penn is an Engagement Officer for Episcopal Relief & Development.  



Images: Top, "Divine Servant" by Max Greiner Jr. Middle, Jesus Washing the Feet of His Disciples,Tulana Centre for Encounter and Dialogue in Sri Lanka. Last, Image Dr. Daniella and one of her patients. 

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