Simon’s mother-in-law lay sick with a fever. They immediately told (Jesus) about her. He approached, grasped her hand, and helped her up. Then the fever left her, and she waited on them. (Mk 1:30-31)
He grasped her hand. How did it feel to have her hand grasped by the hand of Jesus? Did she sense strength in his hand? Did she feel any callouses? Did she detect softness and tenderness in his touch? This passage in the Gospel of Mark got me to wondering: How many times in the Gospels are Jesus’ hands mentioned? And what are they doing?
Jesus’ hands brought healing. One day a leper says to Jesus, “If you wish, you can make me clean.” And Jesus stretches out his hands, saying, “I will do it. Be made clean,” and the leprosy was cured immediately. (Mt. 8:2-3). Jesus restores sight to the blind man. He takes the man by the hand and leads him outside the village. (Imagine walking hand in hand with Jesus…) Then he puts spittle on the man’s eyes. When the man sees only vaguely, Jesus puts spittle on the man’s eyes a second time, and his sight is restored (Mk. 8: 23-25). Jesus cures the deaf man in a similar way (Mk. 7:31-35), putting his fingers in the man’s ears and even touching his tongue.
Jesus’ hands had the power to bring people back to life. When he meets Jairus’ 12-year-old daughter, he is told she is already dead (Mt. 9:25-26). But he takes her by the hand, and she arises. When he encounters the widow in Naim burying her only son, he is “moved with pity” for her. He stops the funeral procession, touches the coffin, and tells the young man to arise. The widow’s son sits up and begins to speak (Lk. 7: 11-17).
Throughout the Gospels, Jesus’ hands are seen doing other things as well. They bless and play with little children. When the accused woman is brought before him, Jesus’ hands write something mysterious in the sand. His hands help distribute bread to feed the hungry crowds, and they overturn tables and drive the money changers out of the temple. At the Last Supper, his hands wash the feet of his disciples, they break the bread, they dip a piece of bread and hand it to Judas his betrayer. In Gethsemane, Jesus’ hands are clenched in agony pleading with the Father, “Let this cup pass from me.” They heal the slave’s ear that Peter had severed with a sword. Then Jesus’ hands are bound by the soldiers as he is led away. And finally, before he was lifted up on the cross, Jesus’ hands were pierced with nails.
Even after his resurrection, Jesus’ hands are busy. When he first appears to his stunned disciples, his hands bless them with peace. A week later, Jesus invites Thomas to touch the wounds in his hands to convince him that he is really Jesus. Another time, he serves his apostles a barbequed breakfast on the beach, a breakfast made with his own hands.
St. Teresa of Avila, said those famous words, “Christ has no body now but yours… no hands… no feet… no eyes… no voice but yours.” I’m suggesting you pay attention to your hands this week. Maybe spend a few moments just gazing at them and thanking God for them. Is any of your history reflected in your hands? As you have aged, have your hands changed? If so, in what ways?
You might want to notice the hands of others this week too. Watch children who are just learning to use their little hands. Observe the hands of workers such as construction people, mechanics, cashiers, people knitting or crocheting, cooks, hair dressers, doctors, your parish priest, teachers, the elderly.
And finally, reflect on some of the things you do with your hands on any given day. How do you use them, in imitation of Jesus, to bring healing, life, and love into our world? I welcome your comments below.
Announcing our Contest Winners!
Everyone who submitted a comment on last week’s blog was entered into a raffle to win an autographed copy of one of my books. We had over 100 comments last week–the most in the 10 year history of “Sunflower Seeds.” So, instead of picking three winners, I decided to pick FIVE! So here are the names of the five lucky winners (drum roll, please!):
Pat B. from Parma, OH. She chose the book “Picking Strawberries.” Pat’s been reading “Sunflower Seeds” for about 4 years, but has been reading my books longer, she said.
Jane McCarthy from Naples, FL. I’ve known Jane and her beloved husband Deacon Ed for many years. Jane’s been reading “Sunflower Seeds” since the very beginning.
Pat Dangelo from Ephrata, PA. Pat chose “The Lord Is My Shepherd” for her husband. She’s been reading this blog for about 10 years.
Adriana H. from Tacoma, WA. She chose “Hanging onto Hope” and has been reading this blog since 2014.
Maria Orlandini, OSF from Greenbelt, MD. Sister Maria chose the book “Picking Strawberries.” She said she made one of my retreats in Aston, PA a while ago. She’s been reading “Sunflower Seeds” for about four years.
Announcing this week’s contest!
This week I will award three $10 Amazon gifts cards. All you have to do to win, is to finish this sentence in 25 words or less: “I would like to win a $10 gift card because…” Your reason can be simple… serious… funny… erudite… creative… poetic… holy… or whatever. As I did last week, I will put your names in a basket and have one of my friends draw three names. Submit your comment by Saturday noon (Eastern time) January 29. Winners of the books this week are ineligible. Gift card winners will be announced next week! At that time I will announce our final contest. The prize is unusual. I came up with the idea while crawling out of bed one morning. It should be fun not only for the three lucky winners, but also for me! Stay tuned!
Our video today is the song “His Hands” written by Kenneth Cope and sung here by Jenny Jordan Frogley. Though the lyrics aren’t included, the visuals from the life of Jesus will help carry the words. The final refrain can be our mantra this week: “I will make my hands like those from Galilee.”
Please add your comment below to today’s reflection. Your additions and insights are most welcome! Then (if you want) enter the contest at the end of your comment.