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San Pedro Sula

The Two Faces of Jesus
For all my adulthood, I have struggled with the Church's Maundy Thursday ritual of foot washing.  Those of you from the Christian community know the event that we celebrate during Holy Week.  The Sunday beforehand, the pastor announces it.   (I think this is code for "women are encouraged not to wear their panty hose" or “make sure your socks have no holes”).  The leaders of the church implicitly are expected to participate and a few brave souls join them. The remainder of the parish sits in the pew, starts side pools on who will make that long walk up the aisle, and then proceeds to watch folks dip their toes into pans that usually hold weekend tennis-sprained ankles.  Downy softened towels soon dab away any remaining droplets of water.

For me, our re-enactment doesn't work.  It has lost its power and relevance.  Jesus' original act was one of service and humility.  There just isn't any cultural deed analogous to this.  Or so I thought until I visited San Pedro Sula, on our trip to Honduras.

A city of 650,000 like San Pedro Sula has many stories.  One of them that might have gone unnoticed but it unfolded right before our eyes as we walked on the sidewalk near the Museum of Anthropology and History.  There, sitting on a curb was a street person, as despondent as any human being I have seen.  He was clothed only in his under-shorts next to a pile of rags that ten minutes before had been his clothes.  A gnarled mane of hair and a bearded face looked at us.  Alcohol?  Mental illness?  Series upon series of misfortunes?  I will never know but what occurred next was forever etched into my memory. 

Briskly walking down his driveway, a second man appeared from the side of his home, and walked right up to the man sitting in his BVDs on the curb.  Ever so softly, he patiently began to bathe the street person.  Using only a scrub brush, a pail of water, and The FounSymbols of Healing.tain of Love, the man with such a gentle touch, began the holiest washing I have ever witnessed.  I snatched a quick look at the saint doing the washing and our eyes met.  His eyes were full.  Mine weren't.   He could see what I couldn't.  I quickly broke the contact.  I was embarrassed over my own discomfort with the event.  I needed time and space.

Soon after this holy moment, Dee and I sat down for lunch.  I waited until the waitress had taken our order.  I paused because I wanted to say this as clearly than anything I had ever said. I leaned over the table towards Dee.

"For years, I have yearned for an act that even begins to touch the power of Jesus' washing of the disciples’ feet.  Today I saw it.  I saw Jesus -- here in San Pedro Sula. 

I just don't know which of the two he was."

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