Here is a translation of the Holy Father’s homily during the Mass of the Lord’s Supper at the Roman prison in Rebibbia.
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This Thursday, Jesus is at table with the disciples, celebrating the feast of Passover. The passage of the Gospel that we have heard says a word that is precisely the center of what Jesus did for all of us: “He loved his own in the world and he loved them to the end. (Jn. 13,2). Jesus loved us. Jesus loves us. But without limits, always to the end. The love of Jesus for us has no limits, it is always more. He never tires of loving anyone. He loves all of us to the point of giving His life. Yes, He gives his life for all of us, He gives his life for each one of us. And each one of us can say: “He gave His life for me.” He gave his life for you, for you, for you, for me for each one, with first and last name, because His love is like that: personal.
The love of Jesus never deceives because he never tires of loving, as He also never tires of forgiving, He never tires of embracing us. This is the first thing I wanted to tell you: Jesus loved each one of you “to the end.”
And then He does something that the disciples did not understand: He washed their feet. In that time, it was common; it was customary because the people, when they would arrive to a house, their feet were dirty with dust from the road. There weren’t any Sampietrini [stone pavement] in that time!
And at the entrance of the house, they would wash their feet. But it was not done by the head of the household; it was done by the slaves. It was the work of slaves. And Jesus cleans our feet, the feet of the disciples, like a slave. And He says to them: “What I am doing, you do not understand now,” he says to Peter, “but you will understand later.” (Jn. 13:7)
Jesus, has so much love that He made Himself a slave in order to serve us, to heal us, to clean us. And today, in this Mass, the Church wants the priest to wash the feet of 12 persons, in memory of the 12 disciples there. But in our heart, we must have the certainty, we must be sure that the Lord, when he washes our feet, He washes everything, He purifies us! He makes us feel once again His love.
In the Bible there is a sentence from the prophet Isaiah that is very beautiful. It says: “Can a mother forget her own child? Though a mother may forget her child, I will not forget you!” (Is. 49:15) That is how the love of God is for us.
And I will wash today the feet of 12 of you, but in these brothers and sisters, there are all of you. Everyone, everyone! All those who live here. You represent them, but I also have a need to be cleaned by the Lord. And for this, pray during this Mass so that the Lord may also clean my filth, so that I may become more your slave, more of a slave in the service of people, as Jesus was. Now, we will begin this part of the ceremony.[Translation by Junno Arocho Esteves]