Each month, a magazine arrives in our mail box, Ministry and Liturgy with many articles for preparation and reflection on the seasons of the church year. By now it is well known that on his first Holy Thursday liturgy Pope Francis washed young people’s feet including a Muslim woman. He celebrated this act outside of Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome; an action that mystifies some people; where others rejoice seeing the Pope engage in pastoral ministry.
Pope Francis mingles with the people, embraces children, even welcomed a child allowing him to sit on his chair during a papal audience, reaching out to the disabled, and comforting those who weep and mourn. He makes his security team nervous whenever the car stops not quite knowing what he will do next.
Pope Francis is inviting bishops, priests and every Catholic to expand the notion of our rituals, how the Mass is celebrated and lived in our own day and age. Ronald Patrick Raab shares these thoughts in his article “Washing the Church.” When we come together for Eucharist on Sunday, when we come together for the Triduum these rituals must connect to our own lives.
Washing feet on Holy Thursday seems to be the most anachronistic thing that we do in a society that no longer has foot washing basins inside our front entryways. We no longer walk on dusty trails, streets or roads, except in warm weather when flip flops are part of the uniform of the day. And yet, each person needs someone to soothe their aches and pains. When we wash feet, we cannot undo the bunions or hammer toes that some people experience. We cannot solve some of life’s problems, unemployment, personal grief, the first year after all the children have grown up and moved on. We may not be able to bring back the children and grandchildren who no longer find God meaningful in their lives.
What we can do is humbly place ourselves before one another recognizing we are fully dependent on Christ for who we are and what we can do. We can connect the washing of the feet with changing diapers and feeding babies. We can help people connect with taking care of an aging parent who is becoming incontinent, of the pail or bucket we grab when a child has the flu. It boils down to being of service to one another, first in our families, then beyond in our community, and sometimes even to members of our faith community. The ritual of washing feet moves us to go beyond our comfort zones, in the same way parents learned to take care of their children, doing all the things that are pleasant and unpleasant. Out of love we take care of those entrusted to our care.
On Holy Thursday consider washing someone else’s foot and then allow another person to wash yours. It is a humbling act that reminds us of Christ’s call to serve, to serve the wider community and pay it forward.
Blessings – Father Larry