While away recently at a silent retreat with my brothers in diaconate formation I had the privilege to sit across from this painting of Mother Mary by Kathy Lawrence during our meals in the dining hall. With each meal I found myself drawn even deeper into the painting. I am not one who likes images of our Lord. Not that there is anything wrong with them or because I think they are idolatry. I don’t like them because all of them are someone else’s idea of what Jesus must have looked like. When we train our minds to see Jesus in a particular image we will often fail to see him as he is in those who surround us.
Jesus cannot be in him, he is a dirty homeless bum. Jesus cannot be in him, he is a ruthless Muslim refugee only trying to do me harm. Jesus cannot be in her, she is an illegal Mexican who has come to steal my life away from me. Jesus cannot be in her, that is Mrs. Prisker for God sake!
I will say that this is now my favorite image of Jesus. Thank you Kathy Lawrence.
We live in an age where there is a debate on the proper way we should receive our Lord when we present ourselves before the Holy Eucharist. There are those who will tell you that we are not worthy to hold the Eucharist in our hands. They are dirty and not sanctified by Holy Orders. There are those who will tell you that it is more reverent to receive him on our tongues. And there are those who will tell you that there are particles of Jesus that fall to the ground when we transfer him hand to hand. These are all valid arguments, to a point, and I accept all of them. But, I am still a ‘receive in the hand’ guy. Why is that so stuck in me?
This painting cemented it all in my head. We have such a humble and loving God that when he decided to dwell among us as one of us he came, not as a great and rich king or a mighty military leader, but as a defenseless child, a child who was incapable of doing even the simplest of things. He had to held. He had to be cuddled. He had to be changed, fed, and cared for. He had to be taught how to feed himself, use the bathroom, and even speak. The Lord, the creator of existence itself, became like us in all things except sin.
I am not worthy to receive you Lord, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed. My unworthiness does not trump his willingness. When I receive in the hand I get to do something that our Mother Mary got to do every day of his (Jesus) life – hold the creator of all things. I have a God who is so incredibly great and loving that he will not only dwell within me but allow me to hold him in the palm of my hand. That is truly awesome. My heart cannot contain the love I have. It must flow out in service to others.
On the tongue or in the hand? Neither Lord. I receive you in my heart.