Thursday, March 21, 2013

Pope Francis and Holy Thursday

Pope Francis is wasting no time in setting the tone for his Pontificate.  He has broken with tradition by deciding to have Holy Thursday Mass at a prison instead of St. Peter's. 

This is so inspiring to me and I'm sure many others.  While I love Liturgy, love Church architecture, vestments and the like; there is something awesome about the Vicar of Christ visiting prisoners on Holy Thursday and washing their feet.

Pope Francis is challenging us all to focus on those who are often forgotten.  Yes, prisoners have done wrong.  They are in prison for something right?  However, we are called to pray for prisoners, visit them and help them. 

The Catholic Church's teachings on the Works of Mercy is far too often forgotten.  Pope Francis is reminding us all of these important acts of love. 

The Catechism states:

The works of mercy are charitable actions by which we come to the aid of our neighbor in his spiritual and bodily necessities. Instructing, advising, consoling, comforting are spiritual works of mercy, as are forgiving and bearing wrongs patiently. The corporal works of mercy consist especially in feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned, and burying the dead. Among all these, giving alms to the poor is one of the chief witnesses to fraternal charity: it is also a work of justice pleasing to God:
He who has two coats, let him share with him who has none and he who has food must do likewise. But give for alms those things which are within; and behold, everything is clean for you. If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and filled," without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit?- CCC 2447

All Catholics should perform these great Works of Mercy, not out of obligation, but out of love for God and neighbor.  When we visit the sick and imprisoned, we are visiting Christ. 

"I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me." - Matthew 25:36

Some are complaining that Pope Francis is turning the Church into a liberal social justice institution, this is not so.  We are all called to love.  We are all called to serve one another.  

Holy Thursday is a sacred day.  It is one of the three days in the Triduum.  What a perfect day to show charity.  

Is Pope Francis NOT taking serious the solemnity of the Mass?
This is something that is silly to even mention, but unfortunately I have heard.  The Mass of Holy Thursday is the commemoration of the Last Supper.  This is the night when Jesus took bread and wine, instituted the Holy Eucharist and the priesthood.  Jesus washed the feet of the disciples.  Can you imagine that?  God, the Creator is on His knees washing the feet of His creatures who constantly disrespect and disobey Him.  It is a reflection in itself just thinking of this imagery.  Now we have the Pope, the Vicar of Christ visiting the "misfits" of society and washing their feet.  It is just inspiring.  

Pope Francis is not watering down the Liturgy or its Solemnity.  He is enriching it by making it come alive, not only in a Church setting, but in the world.  A Church building should not be the only place to celebrate Mass or give witness to Christ. 

What about pilgrims who are visiting Rome?  Well hopefully they are there to pray and not to see the Pope as if he were a celebrity or artifact in a museum.  They should not be upset if the Pope does not celebrate Holy Thursday Mass at St. Peter's.  A passage in Scripture that reminds me of this.  It is about the 100 minus 1 flock of sheep:

“What do you think? If any man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go and search for the one that is straying? If it turns out that he finds it, truly I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine which have not gone astray. So it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones perish." - Matthew 18:12-14

Here Jesus gives us an image of a man who has 100 sheep and loses one.  He leaves the others behind, not to abandon them, but to find the one that is missing.  God will do whatever to save even the one sheep that is lost.

Pope Francis is will be demonstrating Matthew 18:12-14 on Holy Thursday by celebrating with the "lost sheep" who for whatever reason, ended up in prison.

Let us imitate our Holy Father's example.  



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