My latest article published in Give Us This Day, by Liturgical Press, Collegeville, MN.
Stretch Out Your Hand
One of my first funerals as a priest was for an elderly woman who from birth had lived with a clenched fist. Her family told me that at her death, the muscles in her hand completely relaxed. They wept when they realized their mother was open and at ease when Jesus welcomed her home. They told me they believed her heart had done the same. I remember glancing in the casket at the wake to see her open hand.
As believers in Christ Jesus, we may be restored in many ways. Much like when Jesus healed people on the sabbath, faith opens our hearts even beyond the restrictions of tradition. In Jesus, new life abounds after our hearts wither from divorce or alcoholism. Only with faith can we open selfishly clenched fists. Only with faith can we open our hands after finger pointing and blaming a stranger on the street for not having a job. Open hands receive and offer love.
In Luke’s Gospel especially, Jesus lifts up those who are bowed down by poverty and loss. He stretches his love beyond the law. The Gospel is living and active, opening our hearts to Jesus’ redemption in our own lives. Our hands and hearts open wide to hold the mystery of love, no matter the weight of law.
Openness comes only after an encounter with divine forgiveness and acceptance. Openness comes from the generosity of redemption.
With open hands, I pray for all who ache to hold such a mystery.
Fr. Ronald Raab, CSC
I take issue with your comment of “our hearts wither from divorce” I am interested in knowing what this withering pertains to?
The gospel for today states by Paul, “…you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of his flesh”! What the heck does that mean?!?
The prayer over the offerings was our request for the gift of “true prayer “! Dang and dang!!
Now I am worried that I have not experienced “true prayer”?!?!
All very unsettling this morning!!!!
The very fact that you pay attention and ask questions is a sure sign of your strong faith! May I offer some answers from my perspective? Fr. Ron is a close friend and classmate of mine, and was instrumental in helping me get through a most difficult divorce over 20 years ago. Divorce can “wither the heart” in many ways: the misguided, snap judgements of others, the loss of love, reputation, financial support, and a feeling that somehow one has entered an emotional wasteland. When I told another priest friend that I felt I was wandering in a desert, his reply was “the desert is not a bad place to be at this time in your life.” As far as St. Paul’s advice, I see it in the same sense that he observed about himself, that God had sent “an angel of Satan” to beat him, to keep him from “getting too proud”. Perhaps his overall message to this man was that he needed to be humble and accept his sinfulness in order to heal his spirit. And your last question about “true prayer”, reminds me of a line from Shakespeare’s “Hamlet”, in which King Claudius says, “My words fly up, my thoughts remain below. Words without thoughts never to heaven go.” I think Fr. Ron’s reminder to seek “true prayer” could also mean “heartfelt” and “thoughtful” prayer. I share these thoughts with you out of respect for both your questions, and for the deep thoughts that permeate Fr. Ron’s preaching. As he always says, “May God give us peace.”
I wanted to thank you for your reflection Stretch out your Hand. I see from your website your brother passed. Im very sorry for your loss.
Dear Fr Raab, please know I especially appreciate your words. “ache to hold such a mystery”
God bless you.
Knowing that God Loves and desires me helped me to open my hand and heart. The Peace I have the more I believe this is something I never want to lose.