Everywhere you look, read, browse, drive by, walk by, and listen to, there are ads and displays galore of the sugary-sweet cutest more adorable looking buck-toothed bunnies, yellow chicks, elaborately adorned bright-colored eggs in wicker baskets. Our household has long be devoid of any such trappings. I have a few pots of tulips, narcissus, and daffodils in my front porch and on my driveway. No more little girls and boys in their Sunday-bests running around our yard in search of as many hidden Easter eggs they could find and fit in their baskets.
Of all the soundbites, news headlines, tweets, and social media likes and comments, I could not help but take pause at the news of the recently ordained pope’s decision to deviate from what is customary and tradition, to carry out a much revered rite on Holy Thursday, not at the grand Basilica where previous popes have washed priests’ feet to commemorate Jesus washing the feet of his 12 apostles at the Last Supper. I’m sure he ruffled some feathers among the Vatican curia and elite. Not the first time, however, and I’m sure not the last either. I’m cheering him on!
Instead, this pope has made it his lifelong mission, which started even when he was a lesser known (but no less respected) man of the cloth in Argentina, to live, breathe, teach, practice, and be the embodiment of humility, asceticism, and a genuine unselfish regard and devotion to the welfare of others, especially the marginalized.
Although I may not agree with some of his stand on important social constructs as marriage equality or women’s reproductive rights, I can’t help but respect what he has espoused so far. I also have a renewed sense of hope because I have read and heard that this pope has crossed many an aisle to reach out and commune with the Jewish community in Argentina. And he has good relations with the staunchest of feminists there too.
And so, on Holy Thursday, March 28, 2013, Pope Francis went to a detention center in Rome, “Casal de Marmo,” where young offenders were incarcerated. There were 12 of them, mostly in their teens. Of the 12, there were two women, a few were Muslim. Now take that for breaking with tradition! Take that for being all-embracing and inclusive. Take note, all you religious conservatives who cling to such narrow literal translations and interpretations, who would rather exclude out of fear than include, who believe they are pure in their little aseptic worlds.
The act of washing people’s feet is a known ritual in many cultures, even in Asia. It is a gesture of understated but no less resounding, poetic grace and humility. For guests arriving at someone’s home, it is a tacit recognition of the long and maybe, difficult journey to the destination. The practice was often performed by servants or slaves. But when it is the master of the house that performs the ritual, the message is even further heightened and exquisite. Now this is truly emulating an event from centuries past, a true celebration of a most simple and humble event.
As Father James Martin SJ said, “this speaks volumes about his priorities…there was another person who was critiqued for setting aside rules to extend compassion to others. And that person is the man whose death and resurrection we remember this weekend.”
P.S. I know that there are many of you who may be members of other religious institutions, or are agnostics or atheists. I wrote this not to proselytize. I am very respectful of other people’s beliefs and principles. Whatever it is you believe in or don’t, divinity or not, this week’s celebration is about a truly remarkable person, at the very least.
I know that for centuries, people have done the most hideous unspeakable crimes against humanity in the name of God or Jesus or Allah or the prophets. Those who have marketed their brand of God and glory. Those who believe and act as though they had (and have!) the monopoly to the brand or the exclusive clarity of the Word, the Message, the Book. To these groups, shame on you!
- Pope to wash young offenders’ feet (bbc.co.uk)
- Pope includes women for first time in Easter rite (stuff.co.nz)
- Pope washes women’s feet in break with church law (boston.com)
- Humble Gestures Define New Pope (npr.org)
- Pope Francis Offers Holy Thursday Foot Washing To Inmates In Casal Del Marmo Jail (Huffingtonpost.com)
- Where Did The Easter Bunny Come From? (mentalfloss.com)
- Easter Bunnies & Eggs (foodiefriendsfridaydailydish.com)