Written by Sr. Rosemary Finnegan, O.P.
At the very conclusion of Fr. Walsh’s 50th Jubilee Mass last week when the final procession was happening, a slide showed up on our screens in Church and you could hear everyone say “Awww…”. The picture showed Fr. Walsh as he walked away from the camera, holding the hands of two little school girls, one on each side, as they walked down the street together during the school’s ‘Turkey Trot’. The caption read: ‘Thank you, Fr. Walsh, our Good Shepherd, for leading and guiding us on the journey.’
That image of holding hands is powerful, and in both readings today, we hear about the ‘hand of God’. The first reading is about the spiritual explosion of converts in the early church when the word was spreading not only to Jews, but to Gentiles as well. Barnabas was called to help at Antioch and then Paul, after his incredible conversion, assisted him. We then hear the reason why the church in Antioch was growing, which was: "The hand of the Lord was with them!" God's hand was guiding this massive expansion of followers.
In the Gospel, we hear Jesus telling the unbelieving Jews that they are not part of his flock of sheep. He says: "No one can take them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one can take them out of the Father's hand." Here God's hands are shown to be protecting, caring and serving the flock.
This image of God's hand was very meaningful for the scripture writers and is mentioned 94 times in the Old and New Testaments. For example:
- Ps. 101: "Sit at my right hand and I'll make your enemies my footstool."
- Is. 48: "I have carved you in the palm of my hand."
- Ezechial 37:1: "The hand of the Lord was upon me."
And we believe that God’s hand holds our world in its being and directs it accordingly.
Obviously, the image of God’s hand is symbolic, meaning power and authority, strength and dexterity. God's hand has a wonderful ability to do any and all things, and, it is the hand of welcome and acceptance to us.
What does it mean for us to be in "God's hand?"
- It means we can be powerful instruments in the hands of God, bringing about great works like Barnabas and the other disciples.
- It means utter dependency on God, like the sheep and the Shepherd.
- It means believing that God's gracious care will protect us, hold us, and preserve us through all things.
We know it is easy to see God when all is well, but when hard times come, do we hear God say: 'my right hand will hold you?" Do we act like God not only has the whole world in his hands, but he has each one of us right there carved in his palm? Today let us practice walking with God and holding His hand.