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  • Writer's pictureElpidio Pezzella

Healing Hands

"And He entered the synagogue again, and a man was there who had a withered hand".

(Mark 3:1 NKJV)

From the very first lines, Mark's gospel is resolute in showing us Jesus' actions, out in the open and within the home. In Simon's house, Cephas, his mother-in-law is bedridden with fever. We do not know her age and illness; probably everything revolved around her. Informed of the woman's infirmity, here's what he does: "So He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and immediately the fever left her. And she served them" (Mark 1:31). Beyond what happens next, with the woman promptly being healed, taking back the scepter of the household and, like any good and loving mistress, setting about preparing food for the party, there are two details. The first, I believe and hope, is just what you are waiting for. He IS GOING AWAY; he is not and does not remain distant. He does not turn away, he does not decide to leave when he finds a sick and suffering person in the house. No, far from it. Jesus puts others aside and heads for the bed. He is the One who goes out to meet those in need. Therefore, even today He comes to meet you!

The second reveals gentleness and sensitivity. Jesus, after drawing near, TAKES HER BY HAND. Hands are the ones with which we express our first feeling. Hands are the ones that transfer care and attention. Once near you, He reaches out His hand and grasps yours. Because whatever your problem is, you need Him to take you by the hand so you don't feel alone. The moment He grasps you, everything changes. His is not a touch of cold consolation or feeble compassion. If He takes your hand, prepare to be lifted up. When He grasped the hand of Peter's mother-in-law, He did not stop at a caress or a squeeze of encouragement, but HE RAISED IT! Let him take you by the hand and lift you out of your "bed". Get ready to leave your condition to "serve him". The same touch the Good Samaritan will have in coming to the aid of the wounded wayfarer.

Mark's gospel presents us with another situation where the hand is at the center of the story. We are in the synagogue, with a man with a hardened hand and Jesus' inquisitors with hardened hearts. On one side is a paralyzed hand, on the other side many hearts in paralysis, unable to extend a hand of mercy, to think and act according to God. Sclerocardia, that's the term for "hardness of heart," leads to turning away from God's will and distorting the Creator's plan. A terrible disease that erodes the heart and makes it insensitive. It denotes stubborn human insensitivity to the announcements of God's saving will; a will that demands to be accepted by man in the heart, that is, in the center of his personal life. When we speak of 'hardness of heart' we are not in the realm of fantasy. We do not speak of an exotic disease, of distant lands, but of something present around and within us. And those who are most sensitive and attentive feel it. When the heart is hard, everything is hard, rigid. Every action is blatantly recognizable if generated by a hard or soft heart. Faith and spirituality are also affected.

The daily news lifts the veil on the loneliness, the resentments, the emotional latitudes that lurk among us, in our apartment buildings, among the streets of our neighborhoods, and that often manifest themselves, because of our hardness and lack of sensitivity, when it is too late. Jesus responds to the harshness of his interlocutors by putting the sick man in the middle (Mark 3:3). Jesus seeks to break their rigidity, their mental patterns, by showing the need for one who is there with them. Our hands also resemble this man's hand! We too, like him, know well that we need to be healed. Someone may be able to say no, that his life goes by serenely, happily, smoothly but when it comes to love, here he sees his hand shrunken, unable to give, to welcome, to forgive. Someone else knows well the wounds he has inflicted on himself or others have inflicted on him, so out of anger or defense he has learned to clench the hand that has become a fist.

No fear, it happens that way for all of us. Our gestures often fail to do good, our hands hurt, push away, close, want to take only for themselves, yearn to hold back, end up striking. There is a need for our hands to be healed so that they can learn to widen, stretch out: lose the childish shape of the fist to assume that of the palm. "Hold out your hand!" come on! Your life is made to love, there is someone waiting for you! Let us be healed by the Lord to heal in turn those who have been attacked or assaulted.


Weekly Bible Reading Plan #35

August 21, Psalms 107-109; 1 Corinthians 4

August 22, Psalms 110-112; 1 Corinthians 5

August 23, Psalms 113-115; 1 Corinthians 6

August 24, Psalms 116-118; 1 Corinthians 7:1-19

August 25, Psalms 119:1-88; 1 Corinthians 7:20-40

August 26, Psalms 119:89-176; 1 Corinthians 8

August 27, Psalms 120-122; 1 Corinthians 9

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