Remembering our humble service for the unemployed on Holy Thursday

Kathy Saile |

Kathy SalieToday Christians celebrate Holy Thursday or Maundy Thursday, which commemorates Jesus’ Last Supper and the Washing of the Feet. When Jesus stooped to wash the feet of his disciples, he did so in humble servant leadership and to give us a model to follow: “so that as I have done for you, you should also do.” Simon Peter, albeit after some prodding by Jesus, dispensed with his pride and allowed Our Savior to wash his feet.

On this first Holy Thursday of his papacy, Pope Francis answered Jesus’ call by being a servant and model, celebrating Holy Thursday Mass in a juvenile detention facility in Rome and washing the feet of the residents there.

This Easter season, our country and our communities continue to suffer the burden of an economy that cannot produce enough decent jobs. There are over 12 million unemployed people in this country. The average length of unemployment is nine months.

Another eight million people are working part-time though they want full-time work. That’s 20 million people total looking for full-time work.

How many jobs are there for these folks? About 3.7 million, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And we wonder why our economy is broken.

How do these two things relate? Jesus’ message in the washing of the feet is instructive. Our question shouldn’t be, “Am I called to serve my brothers and sisters, my neighbors and fellow parishioners, my friends and family members, who suffer the scourge of unemployment?” The answer to that is clearly yes.

Rather, our question must be “How do I serve?”

Since everyone is called to adopt the model Jesus has given us, it is up to us to determine how we, as individuals and as communities, serve.

And the possibilities are endless!

  • Offer to babysit when a neighbor goes on interviews. 
  • Review your brother’s résumé. 
  • Invite job-seeking parishioners over to share meals. 
  • Start a job club at your parish (using the Faith Advocates for Jobs toolkit, of course!). 
  • Contact your legislators and ask them to support a strong safety net for struggling families and policies that create good paying jobs for struggling workers.

Most importantly, pray for them. Pray for the Lord’s protection, grace and guidance upon them.

And what of Simon Peter? Many can learn from him as well. Those among us who struggle to find decent work can humbly accept the gift of assistance. Many times, accepting help is much more difficult than giving. After all, it demands an acknowledgement that we need it.

But to accept the gift of guidance isn’t weakness, it’s real strength--strength that, like Simon Peter, can be used to repay that gift multiple times over.

Kathy Saile serves on IWJ's National Board of Directors and is the Director of Domestic Social Development for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.