By Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz
Pope Francis has touched the Catholic imagination by humbly washing and kissing the feet of those he serves.
“As I have done, so you must do,” Jesus instructs his apostles on the evening before he died. These words form the motif of Holy Thursday and give shape to the deep mystery of the Holy Eucharist.
I think about Jesus moving from disciple to disciple as he washed their feet and wonder what his thoughts were. I can imagine him lovingly gazing on each one, seeing a person for whom he would win salvation.
C. S. Lewis is famous for saying that humility results not so much from thinking less of ourselves but from thinking of ourselves less. Surely, Jesus was thinking of each person he was serving.
Our first instinct may be to see the foot washing as simply a good deed to be repeated, which of course it is. But in his book “Jesus of Nazareth,” Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI broadens this initial instinct and views the washing as a deep foreshadowing of Christ’s ultimate kenosis: his emptying of his divinity on the cross for our salvation.
Perhaps Jesus was imagining the shadow of that cross on which he died, as it would only be an hour or so after the supper that he prayed: “Father, if it is your will, take this cup from me; yet not my will but yours be done.”
The “supper and cross mutually illuminate one another,” Father Robert Imbelli pointedly states in “Rekindling the Christic Imagination.” Thus, my humble part this Holy Week is to stretch my imagination, to accompany Jesus to his cross in my life so that the Holy Eucharist, given as a gift this blessed evening, might flow through me.
The essay above first appeared in “Give Us This Day,” April 2, 2015, Liturgical Press, reprinted with permission.
The article above is very timely in light of Holy Thursday, coming up just a week away. How blessed it is that two weeks ago, on March 25, I ordained five men as deacons in the hope that they will be ordained priests next spring.
Deacons are called to serve, and perhaps the most fitting icon of that service is the image of Jesus washing the feet of His disciples on the night before He died.
May our deacons and all of us called to serve through baptism heed the powerful words of Jesus, who said after He completed the humble act of washing the feet of His disciples: “I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.”
Let us join together by entering into the mystery of Holy Week with this prayer.