One of the books I’m currently reading is The Good Life: Where Morality and Spirituality Converge, written by Richard M. Gula, a Sulpician who has authored several books. There is much fruit for reflection and prayer in this book. One of the many things that struck me particularly was his reading of Peter’s reaction during the foot-washing that precedes the Last Supper in John’s Gospel.
I always read this as focusing solely on Peter’s sense of his own unworthiness to have Jesus wash his feet. But Gula sees Peter’s resistance as a disciple’s hesitation in the face of a call to a radical change in his way of life. He writes:
In this scene, when Peter sees Jesus, the master, acting like a servant, he knows something is out of place. This is not the picture Peter has in his imagination of the structure of relationships in the community. So Peter resists being washed. He realizes that if he were to comply with the washing, he would be accepting a radical change in the way he ought to relate to others. The action of Jesus is challenging in a radical way the structure that makes some superior whiel others remain inferior. Such a conversion is more than Peter is willing to undergo. When Jesus deliberately reverses social positions by becoming the servant, he witnesses to a new order of relationships in the community and to a style of being a disciples wherein the desire to dominate has no place. When Peter finally allows himself to be washed, he accepts the call for him as a disciple to do likewise.
Peter hesitates, but ultimately accepts the call to radical discipleship, to a way of life that is very different from the conventional understanding. Can we do the same?