Feet are often the dirtiest and smelliest parts of our bodies. In Navotas, feet carry the odor reeking from the mud of human sweat and street stench, especially because everyone uses sandals to wade through puddles of rain and sewage water.
Twice, members of my host families washed my feet before I entered the house. The first time I was shocked and resisted. The second time I acquiesced, yet I felt more humbled. I realized at the second occurrence how consistent my feet had been washed in other ways throughout my stay in Navotas. Both families constantly gave me their best: the best food, the most comfortable bed-sheet, the only mattress, the most efficient electric fan, the best place to sleep, etc... One family gave me their only working mosquito net, against my protest that they should save it for a newborn child. It may be true that Filipinos have a high regard for priests; they are renowned for their hospitality and religiosity. But the genuine goodness and joy that emanates from these sacrifices is beyond my understanding and moves me deeply.
I cannot help but recall the feet washing by Jesus in John 13 and the many times I have experienced this on retreats. Peter and the disciples were shocked that their Master and Teacher turned the roles upside down by lowering himself to perform a service that only the lowest of the lowest of the lowest of the slaves would do in 1st century Palestine. They did not understand at the time. Jesus had to remind them that sharing his inheritance involves having their feet washed. Like Jesus, my host families took attentive and thorough care of me, always giving their best, in ways that both puzzles and humbles me.
Genuine love humbles us, for we cannot earn it, deserve it, or make ourselves worthy of it. It humbles us because it “brings us to the ground.”All we can do is embrace it and allow ourselves to be humiliated by love, as we are. Once that happens, we will know how to response with the same extravagant or "wasteful" expressions of love. Albeit not easy to accept, I am deeply grateful to be humbled by love in Navotas.