Roma (AsiaNews) The washing of the feet, which Pope Benedict XVI performed for the first time today as Pontiff as he did last year as Dean of the College of Cardinals, echoes the one carried out by Jesus "whose gesture cleanses our filth with the purifying force of his goodness".
Benedict XVI's first Cna Domini mass was celebrated once again in St John Lateran Basilica after Pope John Paul II's ailing health had prevented him from conducting the service in the same location for several years. Benedict XVI also performed the washing of the feet on 12 men.
The deed that Jesus carried out is, in the Pontiff's words, a gesture of love that knows no bounds, one that can be refused according to the Gospel's tradition. "It is pride that fails to confess and acknowledge that we need purification. In Judas we see the nature of this refusal."
Judas "values Jesus in terms of power and success. For him only power and success are real; love does not count. His greed for money is more important than communion with Jesus, more important than God and His love. And so he lies, double-crosses and breaks away from the truth. He lives in lies and loses the sense of the supreme truth of God. This way he becomes hardened, incapable of conversion and going back as a prodigal son, and throws away his destroyed life."
In the gesture of "washing the feet" we see the "God's holiness, which is not only an incandescent power before which we must pull back terrified, but is also the power of love and because of this is a purifying and healing power. God descends becoming slave; he washes our feet so that we can be at the table. The mystery of Jesus Christ is in all this. In this, what redemption is becomes clear. The bath in which we cleanse ourselves is his love readied to face death. Only love has this purifying strength that wipes away filth end elevates us to God's heights. The bath that purifies us is He himself who gives Himself totally to us, as far as the depth of His suffering and death. He is continually this love that cleanses. In the Sacraments of purificationbaptism and the sacrament of penitenceHe is continually kneeling before our feet and serving us as a slave, [performing] the service of purification that makes us capable of God. His love is inexhaustible; it really goes on till the end."
But today, "what does 'washing of the feet, concretely mean? Every deed of goodness for our fellows, especially for the suffering and those held in low regard, is like the service of the washing of the feet. The Lord calls us to do this, step down [from our pedestal], learn to be humble, have the courage to be good and available to accept refusal, and yet trust goodness and persevere in it. But there is also a deeper dimension. The Lord wipes away our filth with the purifying force of his goodness. Washing one another's feet means above all forgiving one another other tirelessly, always ready to start together anew even when it seems pointless. It means purifying one another by helping each other and accepting that others help us; [it means] purifying one another by giving each other the hallow strength of God's word and introducing ourselves to the Sacrament of Divine Love."
As a way to demonstrate solidarity to those who suffer, offerings collected during the service will go to help rebuild homes for the victims of the devastating mudslides that affected people in the Diocese of Maasin (Philippines).