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Holy Spirit Interactive: Fr. Peter deSousa: Foot Washing as a Couple

Foot Washing as a Couple

by Fr. Peter deSousa

While Mathew, Mark, Luke and Paul speak of the institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper, John highlights the washing of the disciple's feet. Service is a constitutive part of the Eucharist that the couple are called to live in their domestic Church everyday.

Many couples today, work outside the home, to earn a living. Inside the home too, there is a lot of work that both husband ands wife have to share. As the children grow they too need to share in the work of the house. Jesus is Lord and master but he assumes the role of a slave in humbling himself to wash the feet of his disciples. The disciple is not greater than his master and couples have to be ready to serve in the spirit of Jesus. Grumbling, complaining, finding fault, taking each other for granted, refusing to help, wanting to be served but not to serve, a lack of co-operation, acting the martyr, slovenly and half-hearted work, can spoil the atmosphere in the home. Home-work is not paid, but without it, how would the family survive? If there are domestic helpers, they are also a part of the family and need to be treated with justice, love and respect.

Work is worship. Do we recognise the wonderful opportunities God gives us, to serve like Jesus, with love. Work calls for humility, creativity, sacrifice and collaboration with others for it to be life-giving. Sometimes people face voluntary retirement or unemployment. People tend to look down on such people because they are not bringing in an income. We should never remain idle. There is always a way of earning a living by the work of human hands. Many people are creative in supporting themselves and their families and are not ashamed of whatever work they can do, however humble the task.

Many find a lot of difficulties in their work place. If they remain true to their conscience they may have to suffer. But this is part of the cost of discipleship and a wonderful opportunity to witness as a disciple of Jesus by one's dedication and honesty. In all walks of life, we need witnessing disciples of Jesus.

The "Little brothers and sisters of Jesus" choose to work in the humblest of professions, cheerfully and effectively. They provide wonderful witness to all who see them. Money and perks are not the only criterion in choosing a profession. All admire those who are honest and committed in their work.

There are some married couples who do not believe in working for a living but feel called to imitate priests and sisters, without the evangelical counsels. Their first responsibility is to provide for their children through their hard work, while also being involved in the parish and community building. Their children see them go to work, earn a living and support the family through hard work and professional competence. Parents are role models to their children. There are different charisms in the Church for marriage, priesthood and religious life. Let us not confuse them. All are calls to holiness and each state of life has its own forms of sacrifice and service.

Praise and thanksgiving are an integral part of the Nuptial Mass and of a married couple's life everyday. We praise and thank God for His love and His call to discipleship in the home. We thank Him for all the blessings He gives us by way of faith, love and family. We thank Him for providing us with our daily bread. We thank Him for the crosses in our life through which he prunes us to bear more fruit. We thank Him for the opportunities to share His love and blessings with those less fortunate than ourselves. We thank Him for the community of the Church and the small Christian communities to which we belong.

Let us also thank each other everyday for being channels of God's life and love to us. Let us never take each other for granted or only notice when the other does not please us and come up to our expectations. God wants us to be life-giving to each other just as he is life-giving to us. Parents should bless their children everyday, when they rise, when they leave the house and at night before they sleep. Bless and do not curse. Thank and do not find fault. Correct with love and gentleness. We have a beautiful role model in Jesus who disciples us.

The word discipline comes from making disciples. The Old Testament does have passages about using the rod it is true. How effective is it though in the long run? Jesus made a whip to drive out the money-changers who made religion a farce in the temple. But he was also friendly, caring and understanding towards the sinners and revealed to them the Father as a "watching-over" father, not a watching father. Many an upright man has driven his children away from the Church and belief in God because of his strictness and insistence on external observance. If we love our children and hug them, we can afford to discipline them at times when it is really necessary. But that is only after prayer and not when we are angry or disturbed. There are many alternate forms of disciplining today that are more effective and respectful, than the rod.

We do not have to pamper our children or make life very easy and comfortable for them either. Let them learn to share and do without all they want in these days of materialism and consumerism. Expose them to those who have less and are still contented and joyful in sharing life, laughter and love. Make time to go our together as a family for picnics or to relax and enjoy each other's company. We are part of creation and there is a joy in gardening and preserving our threatened natural world and environment. The psalms teach us to prise God with nature

Our home should be open to the poor, lonely and needy, so that they may find love and healing in sharing the joy and warmth of family, now and then. "Whatsoever we do to the least of Jesus' brothers and sisters, we do unto him." God is never outdone in generosity. The family that reaches out to share with others in Jesus' name, can be sure that they will never ever be in need. God is the Giver of every gift and He will never forget whatever we share with those children of His who are in need. We live in a world where some people are never content with what they have and waste so much while others starve. The Christian family loses its true identity when it turns in on itself and ignores or despises the poor and the weak. It brings destruction on itself. Let us rather love as Jesus loves.

Fr. Peter deSousa (February 1, 2005)

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