“What I want to emphasize is that we need constantly to stir up God’s grace and perceive in every request, even those requests that are inconvenient and at times purely material or downright banal – but only apparently so – the desire of our people to be anointed with fragrant oil, since they know that we have it…We need to “go out”, then, in order to experience our own anointing, its power and its redemptive efficacy: to the “outskirts” where there is suffering, bloodshed, blindness that longs for sight, and prisoners in thrall to many evil masters.” Pope Francis’ homily at the Chrism Mass in 2013.
I remember when I was first asked to be the coordinator of parish youth ministry at the Basilica of St. John in the 1990s. I was excited because the pastor had recognized that I had gifts he felt would be of use to the parish, and especially teens, to grow in closer relationship with God. Immediately after I said yes, without much discernment, I immediately became very afraid…”What am I doing?” “Am I nuts?” “Surely this is the worst mistake anyone could make?”
Well after some research and time on the job I realized the answer was yes to all of the questions except the mistake. I grew to love youth ministry and it was because in servicing others in Jesus’ name, I saw his face more clearly. The teens reflections, vibrancy and problems helped me understand Jesus’ washing of the feet more clearly. Shortly after I began in youth ministry a parishioner provided me with a picture of very dirty feet. Below is a copy of the exact picture I have next to my Breviary (thank you internet.) I look at that picture every morning as I contemplate “Who do you say that I am?” (Matthew 16:15b)
I think about the times Jesus lived and what roads would have been filled with: not very good thoughts I must say. And yet he humbled himself to wash the feet and he told his disciples that they too must do the same. Pope Francis above proposes that we find God’s anointing for us when we self-sacrifice for the good of others…even when they are wrong, rude, boring, left-wing or right-wing, from the wrong family, etc.
I propose that the Pope is telling each of us that one of the most powerful symbols of authenticity is service to our sisters and brothers. Each day I need to ask myself, is my leadership style there primarily for serving other’s needs or my own? Perhaps this is rude to have you ask this of yourself but it is worth thinking about when registrations are late, a parent yells at you for something that isn’t your fault, or your parish leadership doesn’t always take time to give you thanks for your hard work. The blessings of working in diocesan ministry is that I have the chance to see inspiration daily and it helps me dig deeper to understand that leadership in line with Jesus’ teaching is leadership at a personal cost. As we enter this new catechetical season in the next month, let us focus on the many feet we will encounter…some of which may be our own.