Sister Thérèse-Marie Potelle, rscm
From my first steps in religious life, I was given to discover this insistence of Father Gailhac: “Walk, walk without stopping. According to the Holy Spirit, to stop is to go backwards.”
Father Gailhac was familiar with the Gospel of St. John. He certainly meditated a lot on what Jesus said to us: “Walk while you have the light, so that the darkness does not stop you” (Jn 12:35) To walk, you need feet! In the Christian vocabulary, there are many references to our feet: the road, the path, the itinerary, to go forward, to leave… The vocabulary of walking is used in its symbolic sense but it still refers to a concrete experience: we find the word foot more than 500 times in the Bible! The feet embody contact with the earth, the realism of life, they make me stand upright and enable me to move. I am lucky and happy to participate in a hiking club in the splendid setting of the Lac du Salagou near Béziers.
A formative experience of life with its unevenness, its descents, its rocks, its precipices, its discoveries of nature… On hiking trails or pilgrimage paths or simply every morning to get through the day, my feet keep me going, so I have to take good care of them. With my feet, I can project myself forward into the future. They make it possible to meet others and to change my outlook or my life, which is inevitable when I travel. When God calls Abraham to leave his country, he makes him a walker; when he calls Moses to free his people, he makes him a guide. The patriarchs of the Bible are first of all travellers, people on the move, ready for adventure and encounter. They did not stay in their tents! Questions arise in me in this world on the move. The prophets also ran, fled or arrived unexpectedly… The Bible does not only tell of their ideas or speeches, but also of their movements, their walks. The Bible tells not only of their ideas and speeches, but also of their movements, their walks. Feet take possession of the earth, leave footprints, serve as a measure, are vulnerable with their Achilles heel or strong because they can tread on the wrong one. Peter puts the lame man of the Beautiful Gate back on his feet (Acts 3:7) so that he lives fully and praises God. Is this not our mission every step of the way, every day: “May they have life and have it abundantly! “(Jn 10:10).
In the Gospel, a woman has the intuition to honour Jesus’ feet: she washes them with her tears, perfumes them and wipes them with her hair (Lk 7:38).She has grasped the key to the incarnation and in this gesture she combines her love, her gratitude, her request for forgiveniess and her offering for Jesus. She places herself at his feet and cares for them because they are unique, because they embody the salvation and life that are approaching.
Jesus, the master, takes the place of the servant and washes the feet of his disciples “so that they may share with him” (Jn 13:8). The relationship of service, humility and friendship of the washing of the feet gives us the opportunity to be one with Jesus, to be grafted into him and to live in his intimacy. Is this not what Father Gailhac recommends to us: “Love God with all your being, love one another as Jesus Christ loves you, spread this double love in all hearts, give yourselves no rest until they are burning with it: this is your vocation” (Const,39). To walk with someone is to be in solidarity with him or her, to put one’s foosteps in their. Jesus joins the disciples of Emmaus in their walk. He is with them, accompanying them without taking their place. He enables them to go towards others and to meet him through the word and the breaking of bread. The body is invested by the feet while the heart is worked on. So the Spirit gives to the disciples’s feet the necessary zeal to spread the Gospel of peace and again to day “impels us to proclaim the faithful love of God. “in their footsteps. Let us take our stick to walk !