Saint Anne Shrine

16 Church Street | Fiskdale (Sturbridge), MA 01518 

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March Jubilee Audience - Saturday, March 12, 2016

​Theme: On Carrying out love

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

We are approaching the feast of Easter, central mystery of our faith. As we heard, John’s Gospel recounts that before dying and resurrecting for us, Jesus carried out a gesture that was engraved in the memory of the disciples: the washing of the feet, an unexpected and overwhelming gesture, to the point that Peter refused to accept it. I would like to reflect on Jesus’ last words: “Do you know what I have done to you? […] If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet” (13:12.14). Thus Jesus pointed out service to His disciples as the way to follow, to live faith in Him and to give witness of His love. Jesus applied to Himself the image of the “Servant of God” used by the prophet Isaiah. He, who is the Lord, makes Himself servant!

By washing the feet of the Apostles, Jesus wanted to reveal to us God’s way of acting in our relations, and to give an example of his “new commandment” (John 13:34) to love one another as He has loved us, namely, by giving His life for us. John himself writes this in his First Letter: “By this we know love, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren […] Little children, let us not love in word or speech, but in deed and in truth” (3:16.18).

Love, therefore, is the concrete service we render one another. Love not in words but in deeds and service, a humble service, carried out in silence and hiddenness, as Jesus Himself said: “do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing” (Matthew 6:3). This implies making available the gifts that the Holy Spirit has lavished on us, so that the community can grow (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:4-11). In addition, it is expressed in the sharing of material goods, so that no one is in need. This sharing and dedication to those in need is a style of life that God also suggests to many non-Christians, as the way of genuine humanity.

Lastly, let us not forget that by washing the feet of the disciples and asking them to do likewise, Jesus has also invited us to confess to one another our faults and to pray for one another to be able to forgive one another from our heart. In this connection, let us recall the words of the holy Bishop Augustine when he wrote: “The Christian must not disdain to do what Christ did. Because when the body bends down to the brother’s feet, the heart is also enkindled, or if the sentiment of humility was already there, it is nourished […] Let us forgive one another for our wrongs and let us pray for one another for our faults and thus in some way we will wash one another’s feet” (In Jon 58:4-5). Love, charity, is service, to help others, to serve others. Last week I received a letter from a person who thanked me for the Year of Mercy. She asked me to pray for her so that she could be closer to the Lord. This person’s life is to take care of her mother and brother: her elderly mother is bedridden, lucid but unable to move and her brother is disabled, in a wheelchair. This person’s life is to serve, to help. And this is love! When one forgets oneself and thinks of others, this is love! And, with the washing of the feet the Lord taught us to be servants, more than that: servants, as He was a servant for us, for each one of us.

Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, to be merciful as the Father <is merciful> means to follow Jesus on the way of service.

Thank you.