Before Lent, I went to Confession to “take out the garbage.” I think of sin as garbage that has collected for some time and Confession gives us the chance to take it out, dump it, and start fresh. I spent the entire season of Lent tripping over my offenses desperately trying to keep a focus on my Lenten sacrifice. Needless to say, it was 40 days of falling short and failing.
I was reminded during Lent of what was spoken to me by one of our priests during confession, “embrace your humanity.” The gentle words of my confessor before he gave me absolution reminded me of what was reflected upon during Advent through the Gospel of John, Chapter One:
In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.a
2He was in the beginning with God.
3* All things came to be through him,
and without him nothing came to be.b
What came to be 4through him was life,
and this life was the light of the human race;c
and the darkness has not overcome it.”
Jesus is the Word that became flesh and dwelt among us. One thing the perplexes us is that Jesus was both fully divine and fully human. When we embrace our humanity, we embrace Jesus. In Mass we pray, “look not on our sins, but on the faith of your Church.” Jesus does not want us to dwell heavily on our sins, but to have faith that he has the power to abolish them once we come to him with a contrite spirit. For, by accepting our humanity, and acknowledging Jesus’ forgiveness, we can embrace the humanity of others. Christ dwells among us- ALL of us. Embracing our humanity means looking at our neighbors with the same compassion and forgiveness as Jesus did.
Today is Holy Thursday. On this day, Jesus sat with the twelve for a Passover feast. Afterward, he took off his garments, wrapped a towel around his waist, and washed his disciple’s feet. The Gospel of John, Chapter 13 writes:
So when he had washed their feet
and put his garments back on and reclined at table again,
he said to them, “Do you realize what I have done for you?
You call me ‘teacher’ and ‘master,’ and rightly so, for indeed I am.
If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet,
you ought to wash one another’s feet.
I have given you a model to follow,
so that as I have done for you, you should also do.”
The washing of feet symbolizes servanthood. Personally, I think feet are gross. I don’t even like touching my own feet let alone others. When I was preparing for the sacraments at Easter Vigil last year, I was horrified by the Foot Washing Ritual. Like Peter, I did not want one of my priests washing my feet. I eventually mustered up some courage and got in line to have my foot washed by one of our priests. When it was my turn to have my foot washed, he greeted me with the biggest smile known to humankind. I imagined that was how Jesus looked at his disciples. He (our priest) was more than happy to wash my feet. In fact, when I asked him about it later, he said, he was “honored” to wash my sweaty, calloused foot. I was blown away, “honored??” I must have given him my “are you crazy?” face with a raised brow. He nodded with a smile.
On that same day, thousands of miles away, Pope Francis caused the world to respond with the same “are you crazy?” face when he came to a prison to wash (and kiss!) the feet of teenage inmates who were Muslim. He came to them just as Jesus did. He smiled with the same compassionate smile our priests had as they washed our feet.
When we let Jesus wash our feet, we can experience the compassion, mercy and forgiveness that we can bestow upon others. When Jesus washed the feet of the twelve (even the one who betrayed him), he gave them a gift of love. Following Christ can make us feel very uncomfortable, it means that we must love one another as ourselves even if they wrong us. When we get down on the ground and wash and kiss the feet of our enemies, we are treating them as equals- we are embracing their humanity. By acknowledging others with compassion and service, we are saying to them as the Hindus say, “I bow to the divine in you.” The divinity of Christ dwells in the humanity of the world. We can not fully embrace the divine love of Christ until we can fully embrace the humanity of others.
*All scriptures were taken from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops website: http://www.usccb.org *