Reflecting on the Wisdom verse, ‘But the souls of the virtuous are in the hands of God’, Pope Francis has preached on the hands of God – the craftsman’s hands that created us in his own image; the wounded hands as the sign of his suffering for us; the caring hands that hold ours, as a child holds his father’s safe hands (Wisdom 3:1).
And what do we do with our own hands? How do we use our hands for others? They are an instrument of tenderness and care, but can also be a manifestation of anger and violence. Francis has used his hands to show love and compassion – cuddling the child suffering from cancer; embracing the disfigured man, who described his hands as so gentle; stroking the faces of babies and the elderly; carefully drying the feet he had bathed; throwing his hands up with joy and excitement in recognising friends; holding his arms out to greet people. The embrace is often accompanied by a kiss or a blessing.
And not only the Pope shows this tenderness – recently I visited a young man who has just fathered his first baby – he leant down to stroke the child’s face with a look of adoration, unaware that we were watching him. This example of the importance of touch and connection between father and son reminded me of God’s tenderness towards us. Francis told us how he can never imagine God ‘giving us a slap’; even if he is scolding us, because he is kindness and love.
Icons of Our Lady and the Child Jesus, or of St Anne and Mary as a child, feature hands in a beautiful way. The child may have his tiny hand around his mother’s neck; or Our Lady is holding the child’s hand.
There is even an icon where it looks as if Mary’s hand is resting gently on the child’s head. The artist knows the significance of this, and how these contacts convey such a tender relationship. Don’t we all know the beauty of stroking a child’s face and head? Doesn’t our heart melt when a tiny child sidles up to us and puts their hand in ours? How often do we see a parent hold out their hand for the child to clasp – and how readily they do so? As Francis says, the parent’s hand should be a safe and secure one – what a responsibility.
What a gift we have in our hands – hands so sophisticated that they can feed, heal, soothe, caress, write, create, play music, gesticulate, entertain.
We must use them for doing good. Do we thank God for this gift?
Loving Father – we ask you to bless our hands – we thank you for this wonderful part of our creation.
May we always use them for the good of ourselves and others; may we never offend you, or anyone else by using them to do harm. And may we always rest in the safety of your embrace.