I went to visit a man in hospital during the week and as I approached his bed, he stretched out his hand towards me, taking hold of mine and quietly stroking the back of my hand with his thumb. After a while of quiet he said, “we’ll let your hands do the talking!” Then he cried over his life as words would not express what was in him and I blessed him with my hands, spoke to him with my hands. Absolution, anointing, Holy Communion. He was satisfied, relieved, pleased. It’s not that it’s the end or anything. Just what he needed on the day.
As our hands were held in that firm grip, I felt there was in it a powerful connection with each other and with God as if our hands became the intersection of the height and depth of a mystical experience.
The height experienced by Isaiah, the depth experienced by Peter in the readings of last Sunday. Isaiah reminds me of an outstation in Tanzania – Hurui – where they were great for singing and one that I remember from them is based on Isaiah chapter 6. The Swahili words still say it best for me. My memory is of sitting among them listening, singing with them – “Nimtume nani? Unitume mimi ee Bwana!” Whom shall I send? Send me Lord! I felt it with all my being.
Of course, by being there I had already been sent and had already arrived. But the sending stretches out beyond the present into a future unknown to us. Known only to God. For us it is to be available, to long to be sent further and further.
The sending and the going is based on a personal encounter with God which awakens in us a deeper knowledge of self and in turn a deeper knowledge of God.
Isaiah had an experience of heaven. The glory and the holiness of God. Peter had an experience of the divine power of Jesus. Both Isaiah and Peter realized, “what a wretched man I am, a man of unclean lips, depart from me Lord for I am a sinful man!” And the response of God is Mercy – purification and forgiveness – followed by a call to act on behalf of God. A holy awareness of one’s sinfulness is always immediately accompanied by the experience of Mercy. If the two don’t go together, if we simply feel guilty, then it’s not from God.
Here I am, send me! The great hineni of the Old Testament. Openness to God, total availability to Him. Interestingly, Hineni features on the title track of Leonard Cohen’s last album, “You Want It Darker” – “Hineni, hineni, I’m ready my Lord!”
Here I am today, offering my hands to God for Him to use. I look at my two hands and realize the gift that they are, gifts of blessing for others. We are called to use our hands aware of their sacredness, aware that when, as a Christian, I touch another I impart a blessing. When I shake hands, offer a high-five – these are simple, sacred moments of blessing. Husband’s and wives touch each other in the intimacy of their love and thereby bless each other. Parents and children touch each other with the blessing of their hands. Friends. Strangers.
Come Lord Jesus come! Come take my hands. Take them for your own. Take them for your service Lord. Take them for your glory Lord. We sang this at Mass on Sunday.
Christ has no hands on earth but yours to do good. To do good and not to harm or hurt. Yours are the hands with which He blesses all the world.