September 09, 2019 (Monday of Week 23 Year I: St Peter Claver)
'Stretch out your hand'
Dear friends in Christ, human arms are often more useful, when they are stretched out, either to give or to receive. More often, when we stretch out our hands, we do so to receive or in supplication to receive. A clenched fist can gather no more, except it stretches forth. In such a situation, it needs to let go of what is clenched in, to be able to received something fresh, and something more. It makes a lot of sense then, when we say with St Francis, 'It is in giving, that we receive.'
Our first reading today (Colossians 1:24-2:3) is an inspiring message from Paul on how much he is striving to give the best example to the community. Some days ago, we heard in his opening hymn to this letter, about the atoning power of Christ’s sacrifice, which is complete in itself. But today he speaks of his participation in that mission. His main aim he says, “is to present every man mature in Christ.” In his life he says, he tries to “complete what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ for the sake of his body.” This is a mystery because we cannot fully comprehend it, but when we carry our crosses in union with that of Christ, we are also participating in his atoning and reconciling mission to bring the world home to God. This is the way by which Paul stretches out his hands in Christ—a great sign of generosity, to give up on his own ambitions, and to live for Christ among his people, for their salvation.
Today’s Gospel (Luke 6:6-11) tells of Jesus in the Synagogue, on a sabbath day. A man with the withered right hand was there present. It was not impossible that he had been allowed in deliberately. The Pharisees watched to see, if Jesus would work a miracle on the sabbath. Jesus asked the man to stand up before everyone and then asked, "Is it lawful on the sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to destroy it?" Silence must have enveloped the assembly. How can anyone answer that question in the negative? He then asked the man to stretch forth his hands, and when he did, he received his restoration. Like Jesus, we must not be afraid to tell others to stretch forth their hands. You may not instantly heal a withered hand, you may just be able to heal a withered soul. You may not have enough to feed a hundred, but begin by feeding one. You may not feed a man for a day, you may just be able to provide a meal. You may not have enough to pay someone's school fees, you may just buy a pencil or an exercise book. Never be afraid to do good. You are not meant to completely solve anybody's problem; if only you can make the difference to reduce it, you have done enough, only God can solve problems. Never forget to stretch forth your own hands to God, He wants to refill, beyond your imagination. Beyond the physical, stretch forth your hands in prayer.
Let us pray: Lord help me to realise, 'that it is in giving that we receive.' Give me the courage to do good, no matter how insignificant it might look. Amen. May the Almighty God bless you, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.