The mandate to loving service

    March 28, 2024

    I don’t know about you, but as I move on in years, things seem to move on faster! I won’t give my age… Yet here we are again in Holy Week and the start of our sacred Triduum with Holy Thursday. Over the years, I have written a number of reflections on this day of The Lord’s Last Supper. I’ve focused on Jesus’ self-giving love, whereby what he says on Holy Thursday, he does on Good Friday. I have reflected on his mandatum, the mandate to loving service – which is at the heart of all the works and programs of Catholic Charities.

    But this year, given all the challenging and hard stuff going on in our nation and the world, I am finding more questions emerging within me that I struggle with. And so, I’d like to share three of these with you, perhaps somewhat selfishly, as I would feel a little less burdened knowing others struggle with me.

    1. Whose feet would Jesus wash today? Vladimir Putin’s? Hamas fighters who inflicted such horror on October 7th? IDF personnel who in response unleashed a retaliation resulting in over 31,000 deaths of mostly innocent civilians and children in Gaza? Gang leaders in Haiti? Repressive leaders in places like Nicaragua and Sudan? Our own politicians and those running for elected office with whom we harbor not only major policy disagreements, but question if there is any moral compass within them? You may well add more to this list…

    2. Would I be willing to wash those same feet? What would it take to do so? For me, this is the hardest of my questions.

    3. What does the washing of feet really mean? It’s certainly not condoning bad behavior or sins! It can’t be any kind of glossing over evil and injustice. For Jesus, I’ve come to think of his action here as more a parable of what he would do come Good Friday. Jesus was about washing us of our sins, transforming us inside out by his death and resurrection, getting to the root cause of so much hatred, division, and violence.

    4. Wrestling with this question helps me more clearly see that only Jesus’ saving action will ultimately resolve the myriad of problems we face. No new regime, different election result, or social program – however we might deem necessary – will bring about lasting justice and peace. Perhaps serving and washing the feet of those I noted in my first question, and any you have added to that list, might well mean praying for their conversions of heart and soul! And as hard as it might be, even naming them aloud in your prayer. What helps me to do that is Jesus’ own words from the Cross on Good Friday: Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.

    Deacon Lucio Caruso is Pastoral Administrator of St. Ignatius Martyr Parish in Louisville, KY.

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