On Saturday Pope Francis said that love is more than just saying nice words and doing things — it means forgetting oneself and serving others, just as Jesus did when he washed the feet of the disciples.
“By washing the feet of the apostles, Jesus wanted to reveal how God acts toward us, and to give an example of this ‘new commandment’ of loving one another as he has loved us; that is, giving his life for us, the Pope said March 12.
Love, then, “is the concrete service we give to each other,” he said, explaining that love isn’t just saying or doing things, but “love is service! A humble service, done in silence and hiddenness, as Jesus himself said: ‘Don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.’”
Pope Francis spoke to pilgrims present in St. Peter’s Square for his third Jubilee general audience, which are being held once a month throughout the Jubilee of Mercy.
He continued his catechesis on mercy as it is understood in scripture, this time focusing on the passage in the Gospel of John when Jesus washes the feet of his disciples.
It is such an “unexpected and shocking gesture” that Peter doesn’t want to accept it, the Pope said, and pointed to Jesus’ question of “Do you understand what I have done for you?”
When Jesus washes his disciples’ feet and tells them that “if I, the Lord and Master, have washed your feet, also you must wash the feet of others,” he is pointing out to them the path they must take if they want to both live their faith in him and bear witness to his love.
“Jesus has applied to himself the image of the ‘Servant of God’ used by the prophet Isaiah,” Francis said, emphasizing that the fact that the Son of God “makes himself a servant!”
To serve others, then, means to use and make available the gifts that the Holy Spirit has given us in order for the community to grow, he said, adding that this type of service also includes sharing one’s material goods “so that no one is in need.”
“This sharing and dedication to whoever is in need is a lifestyle which God also suggests to many non-Christians, as a path of authentic humanity,” the Pope noted.
He encouraged pilgrims not to forget that in washing the disciples’ feet and in asking us to do the same, Jesus is also inviting us to confess our failings and to pray for each other so that we know “how to forgive from the heart.”
“Love (and) charity, is service,” he said, and in off-the-cuff comments pointed to a letter he received last week from a woman caring for her elderly mother and disabled brother.
In her letter, the woman both thanked the Pope for the Jubilee of Mercy, and asked that he pray for her to grow closer to the Lord.
“The life of this person was to heal her mother and brother…her life was to serve, to help, and this is love,” he said. “When you forget yourself and think of others — this is love.”
Pope Francis closed his audience by noting how in the washing of the feet, Jesus teaches us to be true servants, as he was for each one of us.
“Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, to be merciful like the Father means to follow Jesus on the path of service.”