Let us pray – Part five

Your hands speak to who you are. They speak of your heart, your head, your life, your fate. They may be large or small, rough or smooth, strong or limp. You can point with them, clasp them, make signs with them, stretch them forward and upwards, cup things with them, play instruments and games with them, protest and protect yourself with them, eat with them, comfort with them, measure with them, pray and bless with them. You can make them speak your thoughts and express your emotions, and they may act as codicils or interpreters to what you say. Grasping other hands, you can express friendship and oneness with them. One may be stronger than the other, may be more assertive, may lead your intellect, while the other expresses what’s in your heart, and issues in caresses. They’re your hands. Like the rest of you, they’re unique, very special.

Yes, they’re your hands, but they’re also God’s. At the end, it’s only loving kindness which matters and so it’s you, yes you – and me – who are God’s hands, eyes, heart and mind. Remember the hymn “Take my hands, and let them move at the impulse of Thy love…Take myself, and I will be ever, only, all for Thee”?

If you recall, I’ve previously suggested that it’s our lives which become living prayers, that we don’t need words in order to pray, that it’s what we do which speaks far, far louder than any ordinary words can. Look at your hands, and see in them the embodiment of prayers. Look at each finger, and see in them whole clusters of prayers which ever speak for you in every moment of your life, whether or not words are uttered by your mouths. It’s an idea rooted in what Pope Francis says in the book I mentioned last week, ‘Pope Francis Takes the Bus’. It falls in a Chapter entitled ‘F is for….Finger’.

It’s a prayer or poetic writing which the Pope seems to have composed in Argentina, prior to his papacy. The idea is that there’s a prayer for every finger of the hand.

We begin with the thumb because it’s the finger closest to you. So: you begin by praying for those who are closest to you too, your parents, your kids and siblings, all those who’ve touched your life in some very special way, those whom you never can forget and ever know by name. So: look at your thumb and think about them.

Then there’s the index finger, the finger which points, which gives support; and we remember here all those who take care of other people, who need our support too – teachers, doctors, priests. Priests particularly need much prayer.

Next, there’s the middle finger, the longest finger, the highest. It stands for all those with authority over us. So we think of the Prime Minister, or President, or Queen, Members of Parliament, those we work for. They’re people who manage the destiny of our country and ours. Some need a lot of prayer too and we mustn’t shrink from it no matter how disgusting we find them.

Then there’s the ring finger, which is actually our weakest finger. So yes, we pray for the weakest among us, for the sick, the challenged, those who
are oppressed or discriminated against. Our prayers for them must never cease. Even Popes become parish priests again because of them. They’re people we mustn’t be afraid of getting our finger nails dirty for, no matter what the world throws at us.

And then, the little finger – which is you and me who, before God and man, are the smallest of all. We’ve prayed for everyone else and now it’s our turn. We’ve divined, maybe, the needs of others, and maybe our prayers for them will help us understand our own needs. Through our prayers, hopefully we learn to hear our own inner voice, find a sense of witnessing consciousness of all we do. It’s been called “the one who knows”. It’s our undying spirit even if it feels on-times very far away in all our troubles. It’s the voice of the divine in us. It tells us that despite all our idiocies, we’re of God. All our low self- esteem, our sense of unworthiness, from which I suffered much earlier in my priestly life, is of nothing to this “one who knows”, and despite all those sickening prayers which tell us ‘there’s no health in us’. How can there be no “health” in those made by God? The idea is simply silly. So yes, pray to know this divine consciousness in you, this heart of compassion. You are worth the effort and don’t let anyone put you down or write you off – ever.

So there we are. Our hands are not just for clasping in prayer. They ARE prayers, and we carry them with us wherever we go, and can say them by just looking at our fingers and remembering what they represent. Oh, and for the prosaic or prissy among you – you don’t even need to wash your hands first! Do you begin to see why I cherish Pope Francis so much?

Go safely, then – until the next time.

Markers from the boundary: “‘Thy will be done’. This will be your prayer for all eternity”
(Charles de Foucauld).

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