Transitus of St. Francis of Assisi
October 3, 2012
FrancisCorps is a one year young-adult Franciscan volunteer service experience in Syracuse, NY and Costa Rica. The experience of FrancisCorps begins with an Orientation retreat in August. During the retreat the directors of the program read the account of the last supper from the Gospel of John and then proceed to wash the volunteers’ feet. It’s a surprise for the volunteers and quite humbling for them.
One of the curious things about this washing of feet is what’s left in the water after the footwashing – sock lint, dirt from the floor, grass from the fields.* It’s all in there. The water is dirty.
The dirty water at FrancisCorps is similar to that which was found in the upper room at the Last Supper. The water Jesus found in the basin tells the story of where he and the disciples had been; the dirt from the roads, the sweat from anxious moments confronting religious officials, the bits of callouses from the long hours waiting for Jesus while he was feeding and healing and teaching. This dirty water is the water of all of us who are disciples.
In the dirty water we find the story of our journey.
In the dirty water we remember how we got here.
In the dirty water we embrace our humanity.
In the washing of the feet, Jesus pauses and ackowledges and embraces the humanity of his disciples and then he invites them into the intimacy of the Eucharist, the passion of the Cross and the Glory of the Resurrection.
This transition, this pause, this Transitus, is what we do tonight as well. We pause this evening to embrace the humanity of Francis. We pause to remember his dirty feet. We pause to celebrate how he embraced all of his humanity, including Sister Death. It is only then that he could pass from this life to the next.
As we prepare to smear the walls with fat, line tables with hors d’oeuvres and our glasses with wine for the feast tomorrow it’s good for us as well to pause and wash our feet and look into the water.
How has this year been for us as we have followed in the footsteps of the poor man of Assisi?
Whose traces do we find in the dirty water of our life?
Who has touched us? Changed us? Frustrated us? Angered us? Comforted us? Healed us?
Does the water show signs of having gone “off road” to take a risk or dream, or does the water tell the tale of a life lived safely along a clean and easy path?
Whatever story the dirty water may tell; it is ours and it is the past. Let us embrace it and begin tomorrow with a feast, celebrating our brother Francis and our renewed committment to live the Franciscan journey.
*Based on an original idea by Friar Tom Purcell, OFM Conv.