Just a Thought - A Holy Thursday Church.

I was not baptised in the name of any pope or any group of bishops or any faction. I was baptised 'In the Source of all Being, the Eternal Word, and the Holy Spirit'. And I was baptised so serve.

'He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet, drying them with a towel that he was wearing....'If I, then the Lord and Master, have washed your feet, you should wash each other's feet. I have given you an example so that you may copy what I have done for you' (John 13: 4-5, 13-15)

John the evangelist does not recount the kind of story of the Last Supper that we find in the other gospels. There is no breaking of bread and sharing of a cup of wine. In its place we have an account of Jesus on his knees and washing the feet of his disciples - the function of a domestic slave.  This 'becoming a slave and washing of feet' is the template for Christian leadership: to serve from a place of humility and vulnerability. That is a place we don't like to visit. This self-emptying nature of a Holy Thursday Christian community has been hijacked by a pervasive and self-serving clericalism/ hierarchicalism.   This 'cancer of clericalism' has been tackled head on by Pope Francis. His criticism of church leaders is redolent of Christ's words to the Scribes and Pharisees: 'Woe to you who have the psychology of princes. Woe to you who are concerned with appearances, the colour of vestments and honorific titles. Woe to you careerists who abandon pastoral service and limit yourselves to bureaucracy and personal gain'.

Instead of being a church of the people, by the people and for the people, we have evolved into a generally unaccountable corporation run by careerists. Our systematic abuse of power, and the exclusion of so many people, has all but eroded our capacity to speak with credibility to the people of the marketplace. The 'men only' sign above the places of governance only serves to further diminish this voice.  'Catholicism is not an intellectual system. It is not a collection of dogmas. Catholicism is an encounter; a love story; an event.' (Benedict XV1). That being so, then a church of the clergy, by the clergy and for the clergy, is not where our future lies; and it never will be.

A church that professes Jesus to be its first love must move to the margins and befriend the poorest and learn from them (Jean Vanier).  A church that professes Jesus' leadership as its cornerstone must humbly kneel at the foot of humanity and serve it. This is our most natural disposition because it is Jesus'. That our institution has lost sight of this must be of great concern to all adult thinking Catholics.  A tremendous struggle is taking place now, and mainly so because those in power won't easily give up the privileges it bestows. In our clamour for 'honour at banquets and the most important seats' we have forgotten our place.

And what is our place? John the Baptist said it best: 'In order for Christ to increase, I must decrease'.

We are the towel people,

Soothers, cleansers, healers

of feet tired and sore and cut from the journey.

On our knees before others

And in homage to them, for Christ is there. (Anonymous)