Much has been made in the media of our new dear Pope Francis. His style certainly has caught people’s attention. Perhaps it is merely the media fascination with something that is new. Or the media being introduced to what you and I know to be Christianity’s best kept secret: our preferential option for the poor. But somehow, these humble gestures from a humble man have had a profound impact on people’s perceptions of the church and of the papacy.
And, the good news is that Francis keeps surprising us. (And at the same time, giving headaches to his head of security – by stopping motorcades and kissing babies and touching the people and letting them touch him.) And in case you didn’t know, today, in Rome, he chose to celebrate Holy Thursday mass in a juvenile detention center, washing the feet of convicted offenders – both male and female. “WOW” says the media.
Yet, why should this be so surprising? According to one blogger, “It’s amazing that we are shocked, stunned almost at his humble gestures and tenderness. When all the while that is exactly what our Church leaders should have been doing all the time – the humble works of mercy and compassion. This should be the norm. I’m so grateful for this renewal in our Church…”
IT IS WHAT WE SHOULD BE DOING ALL THE TIME… Maybe you have that perspective down. Maybe what this new pope is doing is not surprising to you at all, because, like him, you have made it a habit to bake a monthly casserole or stop by the grieving widow’s house, or do the roommates dirty dishes. But, like the media that can’t quite figure this new pope out, it is so easy to get caught up in so many things, that we forget what really matters. That is why tonight is such a remedy for us, such a blessing in our world. Tonight, in humble gestures of washing feet and having our feet washed, we are reminded of what really matters, and what we SHOULD BE DOING ALL THE TIME.
In Francis’ own words to the prisoners today, he said simply: “This is a symbol, it is a sign… This washing is a symbol of the LOVE that breaks your real chains.” Most of us don’t have chains like those kids in Casal del Marmo prison. We are not locked up in a correction facility, symbolically shacked inside prison walls. Instead, it can be pride, jealousy, careerism, unforgiveness, or a kind of narcissism that only sees how things effect us, that chain us, that keeps that greatest force – THE humble gesture by the humble man – Jesus – from setting us free to love.
And that is what tonight is all about – whether it is in the meal that is before us on this altar, with the hill of Calvary looming behind it, or the towel and basins that are waiting to be used… They are invitations to know the freedom of loving without counting the cost, of serving without caring about who notices,
Tonight, let these simple gestures, begun by a humble savior and repeated in wonderful ways by a humble shepherd in Rome, be your invitation to break whatever chains your heart, and allow you to do what the church should be doing, and IS doing, all the time…