The Word became flesh. Therefore, Love – as being totally out of self - became flesh. Therefore, Love is not a suggestion of God to man, but a command. “Love one another as I have loved you” (Jn. 13).
The washing of the feet, then, is not just an act that is good example that takes place in a historical moment and is over. Rather, since Christ is not just this historical individual but the prototype of man, then the action of washing the feet of the others is the prototypical act. It is the way man must be. It is a way of being that is out of self.
“On Palm Sunday we began Holy Week, the heart of the liturgical year, when we commemorate the great events that express most powerfully God’s loving plan for all men and women. Jesus enters Jerusalem in order to give himself completely. He gives us his body and his blood, and promises to remain with us always. He freely hands himself over to death in obedience to the Father’s will, and in this way shows how much he loves us. We are called to follow in his footsteps. Holy Week challenges us to step outside ourselves so as to attend to the needs of others: those who long for a sympathetic ear, those in need of comfort or help. We should not simply remain in our own secure world, that of the ninety-nine sheep who never strayed from the fold, but we should go out, with Christ, in search of the one lost sheep, however far it may have wandered. Holy Week is not so much a time of sorrow, but rather a time to enter into Christ’s way of thinking and acting. It is a time of grace given us by the Lord so that we can move beyond a dull or mechanical way of living our faith, and instead open the doors of our hearts, our lives, our parishes, our movements or associations, going out in search of others so as to bring them the light and the joy of our faith in Christ” (Wednesday of Holy Week 2013 with Francis).
Christ institutes the Eucharist so that we can eat Him. That is, we are empowered to live outside of ourselves. Christ is He Who is outside of Himself. To pray always is to live outside of self. Our Father did this by repetitious acts: ejaculations, paying attention to the others, thinking about the others. The spirit of Opus Dei is turning the succession of the ordinary events into deeds of service. Notice Francis does not say much. He says it simply and moves to the act. “He who hears the Word of God and does it is my brother and sister and mother.” You are the mother and engender Christ in you by turning the ordinary act into washing the feet - the service to the other. It is as simple as that.
Hence, the papal phone call to B.A. to the newspaper delivery man not to send the paper, and if he could, the return of the rubber bands – 30 per month.; the visit to our Lady at St. Mary Major with a bouquet of flowers, paying his hotel bill for the time before the Conclave, the visit to his brother cardinal who had the stroke prior to the Conclave…
The Pass Word – To Be Out of Self as Gift and the Foundation: The Sacrament of Baptism
The Conference of Latin American Bishops held in 2007 in Aparecida reminded us to proclaim the Gospel by going out to find people, not sitting in the Curia or the presbytery waiting for people to come to us. In the third to last paragraph, the Aparecida document casts back thirty years and returns to the apostolic exhortation Evangelii nuntiandi of Paul VI, which described “apostolic zeal” as “the sweet and comforting joy of evangelizing”, of “proclaiming with joy a Good News that has been learned through the mercy of the Lord”. But this is expressed not so much by planning initiatives or exceptional events. The Evangelii nuntiandiitself repeated that “if the Son came, it was precisely to reveal, by His words and His life, the ordinary paths of salvation”. It’s the ordinary that one can achieve in missionary fashion. And baptism is paradigmatic in that. I think the parish priests of Buenos Aires are acting in that spirit.
Do you think that concern to facilitate baptism is tied to specific and local situations, or is a criterion that can be recommended for everyone?
BERGOGLIO: The concern to encourage in every way the administration of baptism and the other sacraments involves the whole Church. If the Church follows its Lord, it comes out of itself, with courage and compassion: it doesn’t remain locked in its own self. The Lord works a change in those who are faithful to Him, makes them look up away from themselves. That is the mission, that is witness.
In the handbook on baptism prepared and distributed by the diocese of Buenos Aires answer is given to possible criticism from those who say that the sacraments should not be “a bargain offer” and that the requirements of preparation and readiness should be held to. Is the criticism valid?
BERGOGLIO: There is no sellout, no exchange. The parish priests are observing the directions given by the bishops of the pastoral region of Buenos Aires, which meet all the conditions required by the Code of Canon Law, according to the basic criterion expressed in the last canon: the supreme law is the salvation of souls.
In your opinion, are the cases where baptism is denied to children because the parents are not in a canonically regular marital situation justified in some way?
BERGOGLIO: To us here that would be like closing the doors of the Church. The child has no responsibility for the marital state of its parents. And then, the baptism of children often becomes a new beginning for parents. Usually there is a little catechesis before baptism, about an hour, then a mystagogic catechesis during liturgy. Then, the priests and laity go to visit these families to continue with their post-baptismal pastoral. And it often happens that parents, who were not married in church, maybe ask to come before the altar to celebrate the sacrament of marriage.
It sometimes happens that ministers and pastoral workers assume almost a proprietorial attitude as if the decision to grant the sacraments or not were in their hands.
BERGOGLIO: The sacraments are signs of the Lord. They are not performances or the conquests of priests or bishops. In our vast country there are many small towns or villages that are difficult to reach, where the priest arrives once or twice a year. But popular piety feels that children should be baptized as soon as possible, and so in those places there is always a layman or woman known by everyone as bautizadores who baptize the children when they are born, awaiting the arrival of the priest. When the priest comes, they bring him the children so he can anoint them with holy oil, completing the ceremony. When I think of it, I’m always surprised by that story of those Christian communities in Japan that were left without a priest for more than two hundred years. When the missionaries returned they found them all baptized, all married validly for the Church and all their dead had been buried in Christian fashion. Those laymen had received only baptism, and by virtue of their baptism they had also lived their apostolic mission.
According to some people unless there is adequate understanding and preparation the sacramental rite is in danger of becoming something “magical” or mechanical. What do you think?
BERGOGLIO: Nobody thinks that we don’t need catechesis, preparing children for confirmation and communion. But we must always look at our people as they are, and see what is needed most. The sacraments are for the life of men and women as they are. Who maybe don’t talk all that much, but their sensus fidei captures the reality of the sacraments with more clarity than that of many specialists.
Can you give us some incident in your pastoral experience that highlights this sensus fidei?
BERGOGLIO: Just a few days ago I baptized seven children of a woman on her own, a poor widow, who works as a maid and she had had them from two different men. I met her last year at the Feast of San Cayetano. She’d said: Father, I’m in mortal sin, I have seven children and I’ve never had them baptized. It had happened because she had no money to bring the godparents from a distance, or to pay for the party, because she always had to work ... I suggested we meet, to talk about it. We spoke on the phone, she came to see me, told me that she could never find all the godparents and get them together ... In the end I said: let’s do everything with only two godparents, representing the others. They all came here and after a little catechesis I baptized them in the chapel of the archbishopric. After the ceremony we had a little refreshment. A coca cola and sandwiches. She told me: Father, I can’t believe it, you make me feel important... I replied, but lady, where do I come in, it’s Jesus who makes you important.