Sunday, January 17, 2010

Praying III

Some years ago the pastor at our church shared the famous story of a sculpture of Christ that had been damaged during World War II. After discussing how to restore the statue, it was decided that the hands, missing after a bombing raid, would be replaced with the inscription, “Christ has no hands but ours.” I think of this often as I wrestle with seemingly competing ideas of a sovereign and powerful God and each person’s role to play in the Great Story. Is it really true? Has the body of Christ no hands besides those like the ones outstretched before me? These ones here, fallible and prone to folly? I often hear talk of angels among us, but wonder if we sometimes placate fear of obligation with fuzzy hopes for otherworldly intervention.
I find myself repeating this well-known phrase sometimes as a prayer. As I go about by daily business, grumbling with ingratitude and cursing the inconveniences that arise, every once in a while I hear a still, small whisper reminding me of this story and the powerful image of a sculpture I have never seen. The children in my care were put there so that I might minister to them with hands that make meals, change diapers, and administer Band-Aids the way Jesus would have done it. The intimacy of marriage, both beautiful and raw, affords my best opportunity to do God’s work. When I choose those things that are right for my husband I am the human touch of his Heavenly Father. In each of the lives that I bump up against I have opportunity. Opportunity to use my body and my time in ways that bring tangible warmth to spiritual reality. Opportunities to live a whole gospel, where words match deeds. Opportunities I often forfeit, because I am tired, preoccupied with personal gain or distracted by the noise of life.
So what of Haiti? I cannot comprehend the suffering. But I do know that physical need requires physical touch. And so I pray. For needs to be met. Arms to pull bodies from the rubble. Backs to carry water. Hands to stroke the hair of the child waiting for medical care. Dollars, squeezed from my pocket, and sent with whispered prayers that short distance to my neighbor in need.

Lord Christ,
You have no body on earth but ours,
No hands but ours,
No feet but ours.
Ours are the eyes through which your compassion
Must look out on the world.
Ours are the feet by which you may still
Go about doing good.
Ours are the hands with which
You bless people now.
Bless our minds and bodies,
That we may be a blessing to others.

St. Teresa of Avila

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