After he was elected, Pope Francis celebrated Holy Thursday in a youth detention center. During the Liturgy, he washed the feet of men and women, Christian and non Christian, an action that provoked much discussion and even controversy. I was in Rome at the time and felt the joy of the people in Rome: in stores, restaurants, and on the streets. The words and actions of a Pope came together in a beautiful harmony that spoke to the hearts of people around the world. This is religion at its best.
The great enemy of religion ischypocrisy, when words are not supported with actions. We can say all the right words and pray the rituals with all the t’s crossed and i’s dotted; but if our actions and behavior do not reflect the values of gospel discipleship, not only people, but God , are turned away. In the gospel jesus speaks with blunt clarity : “Not everyone who says ‘ Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom…only those who DO the will of my Father. ”
Jesus will recognize us by our actions more so than our words. In the parable that follows, the wise man builds his house on rock, which will not crumble in storm and wind. When our actions and words come together, we are on a solid foundation and can survive all the storms that life brings out way.
When we are all talk and no action, our lives fall a part , like a house built on sand. As soon as the winds keep blowing, sand castles on the beach collapse and dissolve into nothingness. Our lives are like these collapsing castes when we consistently fail to act on our beliefs. But when we live out our convictions and make the sacrifices needed to be a person of integrity , we develop strong characters. Our lives have substance and meaning… they are held together through love in action.
Ironically , the people must threatened by the Pope’s action of washing feet were fellow priests. The liturgical rubrics are quite clear, I guess: twelve MEN are to wash feet, for they symbolize the twelve Apostles. Literalism run amuck!! It seems the Pope knows when rules and traditions need to be transcended, allowing the words of the Liturgy to be strengthened by ritual action that speaks to the human heart. It is sad that people, especially we priests, can be so threatened by a powerful, but simple, ritual of washing the feet of people representing the diversity in the human family.
The greatest tool of spreading the faith and drawing people to the Church is the way we live our lives. Our witness in action is the most compelling teacher there is. We “wash feet” by reaching out, visiting , writing letters of gratitude, volunteering, being kind to people, especially the vulnerable , befriending the lonely , and just being present to those around us.
These simple actions make the foundation of our lives strong and secure. Entrance into the kingdom is not grounded in words but actions.
Buen Camino. Padre