Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Spirituality: “A Genuflection in Love” By Fr. Ronald Rolheiser

They embraced his feet! What a curious gesture! Yet this is the response of Jesus’ disciples when they first meet him after the resurrection. Why his feet?

Embracing one’s feet was, at the time of Jesus, a symbolic image for discipleship. The idea was that the disciple was meant to embrace the feet of the master by sitting at his feet and walking in his footsteps. In essence, the idea was that the feet of the master laid out the road to be followed, and the gestures of embracing the master’s feet and walking in his steps designated a certain acquiescence of the will, an obedience to someone and something higher than oneself.

But, prior to Jesus, this normally implied a relationship of non-equals, a master and a disciple, a teacher and a pupil. There was obedience, but not necessarily friendship and intimacy. What changes with Jesus is that the embrace now becomes one of intimacy. One now falls at the feet of Jesus akin to how one falls in love. In love, we embrace each other’s feet; the acquiescence is not a bending to power but a genuflection in love.

Jesus had tried to instill into his followers this shift in obedience: “I no longer call you servants, but friends.” The God that Jesus incarnated is not a God who demands obedience on the basis of power and fear. This God, rather, invites us to acquiescence in love. Genuine intimacy is nothing other than a mutual genuflection in love. That is also the essence of discipleship. Jesus’ early disciples already knew that and, hence, upon meeting him on Easter morning, they give him the deepest, most robust, intimate hug of all: they embraced his feet.

Source: Found in Give Us This Day, April 2015, pp. 138-139.