The first time I went to MEDJUGORJE our leader took us up KRIZEVAC (Cross Mountain) to do the Stations of the Cross. She was old enough to be my mother so, when she took off her shoes to go barefoot, I felt I had no option but to do the same.
It’s a slow climb of about two hours over large and sometimes sharp rocks. The pain and discomfort I felt helped me connect with the sufferings of Jesus in some small way.
When we got to the top I sat myself down to relieve my dirty, bruised feet and what happened next is one of the most beautiful experiences of my life.
An old woman came over to me unbidden, carrying a small basin and a bottle of water and she proceeded to wash my feet. She was Jesus to me in that moment, touching me in a concrete way with her love, doing something that I needed. It also became clear that she washed my feet because I am a priest.
My feet are symbolic of who I am as a man and a priest – dirty and bruised, needing consolation and healing. I’m regularly astonished that I have been chosen to be a priest. When I vest for Mass in the sacristy I look with vanity at myself in the mirror to make sure I look well but more importantly I look and am astonished that this is me, that I have been chosen for t his.
Every priest has a sense of his own unworthiness; every priest is in need of healing and mercy. Every human being is in need of it. And it is given.
The love of Jesus is something that touches the reality of who we are; it is a love to be felt, experienced. His washing of the feet of his closest friends during the Last Supper is given as evidence of the extent of His love, the perfection of it. “He always loved those who were His in the world and now He showed how perfect His love was. While they were at supper…” (John 13)
It is a love that is daily present to us, concretely touching us in the Eucharist, which is not just a symbol of Christ’s presence and love. It is the reality of His presence and love.