Jesus Gets His Hands Dirty

Jesus washing feet Maundy ThursdayBack in the mid-1990’s, before the internet ruined our lives (I’m kidding. Kidding) I was in the seminary, discerning a possible call to the priesthood.

They were amazing years, and gave me a solid faith formation, an opportunity to come to know the beautiful heart of the Church from a unique and powerful perspective, and a chance for a brotherhood that in many ways continues today with both brothers who discerned out, like me, and were called to marriage, and those brothers who are now my “fathers” through the gift of priesthood.

But some things in my seminary experience drove me nuts. Like the guy whom we will call “Brad.”

“Brad” had it all laid out. His future was bright. A priestly vocation stocked with the highest of creature comforts. If that sounds bizzare wait for the next line which he actually said out loud. “These hands were made for chalices not callouses.”

Uh. What?

Praise God he was weeded out by the formation team, and I do pray he is happy now and has submitted to the action of the Holy Spirit, Who would rightly flush all such nonsensical thoughts and earthly attachments from his head and make a selfless man out of him.

Chalices not callouses? Have you read the gospels? Have you thought of the life of Jesus as he worked under that scolding hot Palestinian sun? For 18 years! As a blue collar worker, a “tekton” or carpenter/stone mason?

Why else would Jesus call us the salt of the earth? He was the salt of the earth. Poor, humble, hard at work to provide for his mother. And in today’s gospel, Jesus gets his hands dirty once again. Sorry “Brad”, but he makes mud. He sacramentalizes the earth with his spit. It’s true.

“While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva, and smeared the clay on his eyes, and said to the blind man, “Go wash in the Pool of Siloam” – which means Sent. So the blind man went and washed, and came back able to see.” (John 9)

Now there’s manly. There’s a man willing to speak the language of his people; in fact to speak the language of each unique person. The man born blind needed that extra stage. That preparation time to receive and revere the full weight of the glory of sight.

So all of us must be willing to stick our hands in the mud and mess of life too. To get the callouses that come from our hands at work in the fields of the Lord.

Our distance from the daily grind of the common man, the poor and the suffering never brought a soul closer to God. It’s the descent in humility that prepares our hearts best for the final ascent into glory.

Pope Francis said, on the plane after World Youth Day this past summer:

“I want to tell you something. What is it that I expect as a consequence of World Youth Day? I want a mess. We knew that in Rio there would be great disorder, but I want trouble in the dioceses! … I want to see the church get closer to the people. I want to get rid of clericalism, the mundane, this closing ourselves off within ourselves, in our parishes, schools or structures. Because these need to get out!”

Bill has worked in the fields of mission and evangelization in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia since 1999. Bill holds an Associates Degree in Visual Arts, a Bachelors in Philosophy and a Masters in Systematic Theology. After teaching theology at Malvern Prep for 8 years, he has recently entered full time work for the Theology of the Body Institute as an instructor for the Certification Program, an international speaker, and curriculum specialist. Bill also teaches theology at Immaculata University. He and his wife, Rebecca, live outside of Philadelphia, PA with their three children.