“A priest who seldom goes out of himself, who anoints little – I won’t say “not at all” because, thank God, our people take our oil from us anyway – misses out on the best of our people, on what can stir the depths of his priestly heart.”
-Pope Francis, homily on Holy Thursday
I’m running the risk of turning this blog into a blog all about our new Holy Father, but Pope Francis is almost leaving me no choice with all he’s done to remind us how to live simply as Christians. I mean, I spent so much time during my Holy Week here at St. Monica’s and at every meal I sat down to with the priests in the rectory, something about Pope Francis came up. Whether it was his Homily at the Chrism Mass or the fact that he washed the feet, not of other Cardinals and Bishops, but of boys and girls in a detention facility, Christians and Muslims alike, there’s still a buzz. That homily he gave at the Chrism Mass on Holy Thursday is still reverberating in my own mind and heart, and it seems to be the same for so many of the priests and seminarians I know. I definitely recommend reading it and praying over it so you can see what indeed makes up the joys and hopes, worries and struggles of being a priest today: Holy Thursday Chrism Mass Homily
Pope Francis reminds us about our connection to God’s people and the need for our own anointing to overflow onto others. This reminder became the center of my whole Triduum, leading up into Easter Sunday. And it’s not only our priests whose anointing must overflow onto others. Every last one of us is anointed as Christians: as priests, as prophets, and as kings and queens, at our Baptisms. And I know some of you are about to receive the tremendous gift of the anointing of the Holy Spirit in Confirmation very soon, and so you will join over a billion other people who have been anointed to more fully share the Easter proclamation of eternal life, true life, life that is no longer dominated and defaced by selfishness and death. We will all share in this anointing, and it is not something to be kept hidden away, as if in a tomb.
So one of the most moving moments for me during every Easter Triduum is the Washing of the Feet on Holy Thursday. Here at St. Monica’s we invite everyone up to get their feet washed if they want. Our priests begin by washing their feet, but just like Jesus called his disciples to do, and us too, they let those who’ve had their feet washed, including those in RCIA who are going to be Baptized in two nights’ time, begin to wash the feet of others. I feel like there is almost no better liturgical sign, other than the Eucharist, of our anointing as Christians to be servants because we share in God’s own life.
Last year, a picture of me got out in which I was washing the feet of a baby girl. And my heart was nearly rent with how beautiful a moment that was, not because it was so cute or made me look like a good guy, but because in that moment I came face to face with the innocence I turn away from whenever I sin.
Now, this year another picture made its way to the Internet of me getting my own feet washed. I dare say this was just as moving a moment for me as from last year.
The more and more I hear what Pope Francis has had to say about living like Christ, the more I so desire to live as a servant. But there are times when we need to let others serve us too. I can’t take everything onto myself and be selfish about my good works! It’s not all about me! I wanted to wash the feet of every one I came across that night, but then I would be taking away from our RCIA members’ chances to serve and experience Christ’s humility in the washing of feet. What a paradox for me! So I needed to accept that someone wanted to wash my feet, I needed to humble myself in that way, just like Peter did when the Lord wanted to wash his feet (John 13:8).
So for those of you about to be confirmed, know that your anointing this week is not just something to bring you closer to the Church. Your anointing is a reminder of Easter and an invitation to bring everyone else closer to the Church. And for those of us already confirmed, let’s relive our anointing this Easter season. Let’s remember that we’re called to step outside of ourselves because Jesus knew no other way to live. And let’s all do it in the humility that knows that we’re not working to bring the Kingdom of God to life by ourselves; we‘re letting our anointing, that gift of the Holy Spirit, overflow onto others.