“Today, at this moment, as I perform the same act as Jesus by washing the feet of you twelve, we are all engaged in the act of brotherhood, and we are all saying: ‘We are diverse, we are different, we have different cultures and religions, but we are brothers and sisters and we want to live in peace.’ This is the act that I carry out with you. Each of us has a history on our shoulders, each of you has a history on your shoulders: so many crosses, so much pain, but also an open heart that wants brotherhood. —Pope Francis
Perhaps no action by Pope Francis has generated as much astonishment in the press (and perhaps in the Church!) as his washing the feet of prisoners—men, women, Christian, Muslim. A ritual that has at times become an honor for the elite once again returns to what Jesus intended: “As I have done, so you must do.” In his preaching on Holy Thursday, Pope Francis draws attention to the difference between the acts of Judas and Jesus at the Last Supper. The Holy Thursday liturgy is marked by the ritual gesture of the washing of the feet. We think of it as the institution of the Eucharist, and it is that as well. But the central action of service reminds us that our communion is more than a meal, more than nourishment for our bodies and souls. It’s the act of taking on the mission, the ministry, the very body of Christ. And it is a challenge to us to remain in communion not only with one another, but with all people of the world. Our unity is far from perfect, but today’s liturgy reminds us that if we are not always working toward that unity, then, like Judas, we are finding excuses to betray Christ’s ideals.
Today we enter into the holiest days of our Church year. We celebrate the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus, the act that changed the very nature of human reality. Take some time to explore the way other religions similarly call their people to do loving acts of service for others. The more we know about those whose faith differs from ours, the more we will discover the common bonds that unite us.
— from the book The Hope of Lent: Daily Reflections from Pope Francis,
by Diane M. Houdek