During his homily for Holy Thursday’s Mass at a center for disabled persons, Pope Francis reflected on how Jesus washed the feet of his disciples, calling it an act of loving service that we ought to imitate.
“He did it this way out of love. You too should love each other. Be servants in love,” the Pope said in his April 17 homily during the Mass of the Lord’s Supper.
Celebrated by the Church each year in commemoration of the institution of the Eucharist and Jesus’ call for his disciples to imitate him in serving others, this particular Mass was held in Don Gnocchi facility. Located in Rome’s Casal del Marmo area it serves as a rehabilitation center for the elderly and disabled.
Beginning his reflections, the pontiff immediately turned to the Gospel reading in which Jesus washes his disciples’ feet on his knees, explaining that this is an invitation, and telling those present that “you too should be servants, one to the other.”
Jesus’ act in washing the apostle’s feet “is a symbolic gesture,” he noted, emphasizing how “Slaves did it, servants did it.”
During that time when guests entered the house “it was necessary to wash their feet” because the streets were all made of dirt, the Pope continued, “And Jesus did this gesture, the work of a servant, of a slave.”
Highlighting how this act is a “legacy” that Jesus leaves to us, Pope Francis stated that “We should always be servants to one another,” and emphasized that it is for this reason the Church on Holy Thursday “commemorates the last supper of Jesus,” during which he institutes the Sacrament of the Eucharist.
Repeating that “We should be servants to one another,” the Roman Pontiff then explained that “Now I will do this same gesture, but all of us in our hearts think of others.”
“And we think of the love of Jesus who tells us that we should have for others. We think also how we can serve” Jesus well, “because this is what Jesus wanted for us.”
This marks the second year in a row that Pope Francis has chosen to celebrate the Mass of Our Lord’s Supper with those who are often pushed to the margins of society, having visited and washed the feet of inmates in a Roman Youth Detention Center.
Among the 12 persons whose feet the pontiff washed are nine Italians, one Muslim from Libya, a young man from Cape Verde and an Ethiopian woman who are all suffering from physical, neurological and oncological illnesses.
The youngest of those who had their feet washed is a 16-year-old youth named Oswaldinho who hails from Cape Verde and is completely paralyzed following a diving accident last summer. Not far behind Oswaldinho was 19-year-old Marco, who is a high school student and leader of his parish Youth Group, and who was diagnosed with a cerebral palsy just last year.
Eldest of the 12 was Pietro, 86, who has been a resident at the center for a year and who struggles with mobility and muscular deficiency. The second eldest was 75-year-old Hamed, who is a Muslim man originally from Libia, and who worked for the Itlian-Arab Chamber of Commerce before being involved in a traffic accident that caused serious neurological impairment.
The other eight who had their feet washed by the Pope are Orietta, 51, who suffers from an illness affecting her brain; Samuel, 66, who has had polio from his youth; Angelica, 86, the former president of Catholic Action in Italy, and has had hip replacement surgery twice; Daria, 39, has suffered with cerebral palsy from her childhood; Gianluca, 36, who from the age of 14 has undergone numerous operations as a result of meningitis; Stefano, 49, suffers from a serious cerebral and motor disorder; Giordana, 27 and from Ethiopia, suffers from cerebral palsy and epilepsy, and Walter, 59, who has Down's Syndrome.
Tomorrow, Good Friday, Pope Francis is slated to preside over Mass commemorating the Lord’s Passion in St. Peter’s Basilica at 5p.m., after which he will lead faithful in the Stations of the Cross, a prayer commemorating the last events of Jesus life before he died on the Cross, at the Coliseum at 9:15p.m.