I Have Engraved you On the Palm of my Hand

But Zion said, ‘The Lord has forsaken me,
my Lord has forgotten me.’
Can a woman forget her nursing-child,
or show no compassion for the child of her womb?
Even these may forget,
yet I will not forget you.
(Isaiah 49: 14-15)

Anyone who has a “Rambo” or “Terminator” notion of the God of Israel may have a hard time accepting the image of God that Isaiah presented in the first reading. For a moment, I would like you to give up your preconceived notions of the God of the Old Testament and allow the poetry of Isaiah to resonate in your soul. The Old Testament writers provided many images for God: shepherd, king, rock, eagle, potter, father, etc. Our ancestors in the faith contemplated the passage of Genesis wherein it was written that God created man in His image and likeness. As they pondered the tensions residing in the human soul, they had no problem relating to a God who was just and merciful, stern and compassionate.

Earlier in his prophetic utterance, the prophet described God as giving birth to a new creation, “But now, I cry out as a woman in labor, gasping and panting” (Is. 42:14). In today’s first reading, the prophet spoke of God’s motherly love. God responds to the pain and suffering of His people by assuring them that just as a mother’s love is unconditional, so is His. Then God takes the image a step farther. He says that even if a mother’s love should fail, His love never would fail. The prophet tells the people that God would never forget the people to whom He gave birth. In the verse following today’s text we find these memorable words: “Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands” (Is. 49: 16). With these words in mind, it would be good to remember the account of Jesus showing Himself to the disciples after the resurrection: “Look at my hands and my feet. See that it is I myself” (Lk. 24:39). In the person of the Son, the God of the exiles became an exile Himself. By dying on the Cross, Jesus engraved the signs of suffering, sin and death on His body. By rising from the dead, He grafted those wounds to His glorified body for all eternity. Allow me to blend the two passages together. “Behold it is I. Look at my hands and my feet. See how I have engraved you on the palms of my hands for all eternity.”

We need to ponder the hands and feet of Jesus. We need to find in those wounds all our sins, all our sufferings and all our shame. We need to see how Jesus conquered sin and death and transformed them into everlasting life. Looking at those glorious wounds we will find the bond, the connection, the care and the tenderness that God has for us. We need to stretch out our hands to His and allow Him to hold us. Our circumstances may be different from those of the exiles, but our emotional state is very much the same. Some of us may feel alienated from the Church. Some of us may have grown cynical about the political system. Some of us have drifted from our roots and have no place to call “home”. The words Isaiah spoke to his people should find a resonance within us. It seems that no matter how various aspects of society deteriorate, there is one person who is always there for us – MOM.

Life is much bigger than politics, family roots and financial security. Surrounded by people who expend all their energy striving after all these things, it is easy to become dependent on material things and self-sufficient. It does not take too long for us to realize that the ways of the world don’t work. However, this discontent does not mean that we do not experience the Presence of a Power greater than us that gives us peace of mind and heart. Breaking with convention and making use of the image provided by Isaiah allows us to give a name to this powerful presence. As he did to the exiles, the prophet Isaiah speaks to our deepest hurts and pain. Finding ourselves alone with our misery, Isaiah proposes access to the One who could heal our hurts and nurture us to fullness of life. The prophet Isaiah addresses the longings of the human heart when he speaks of a mother’s love and tells the people that God’s love is just like that. In this vane, we hear the words of Jesus in today’s gospel passage. Our Lord and Savior wants to open our eyes to God who is concerned about us and our well-being. If we accept this description of God, then we can lower our inner anxiety level about ourselves. If we surrender our lives and wills to the love and care of God, we can turn to those who are in distress knowing that they are the focus of God’s concern.

Jesus would have us remember: God is the creator, everything else we pursue is created. Focusing on created things can cause us to forget God, who is the source of all that is good. If God is our focus, then the things that concern God about our world should also concern us as well. Our worth is what we have within us and that is a free gift of God. Nothing we own, or can do for ourselves, gains us value in God’s eyes — God’s grace is the only sure source of our true “greatness.” Let us pray:

Dear Jesus, the only true center of my life and my choices, thank you for your tender, continually faithful love for me. I’m especially grateful for your patient love when I try to be independent and fail to depend upon you, fail to trust your care. Let me rest in you alone today. In all you call me to do today, let me surrender my anxiety. Let me be courageous and bold in my concern for sharing your love for others. Let me place my life in your hands. Let me fall into your loving embrace so that I can serve you and your people with greater freedom, without fear, with greater zeal, with greater fire. Thank you. (Found on Website of Creighton University)

CONFRATERNITY OF PENITENTS BLOG — Follow the Confraternity of Penitents, a Catholic Association of the Faithful for people who want to live at home a religious Rule of Life, originally given by Saint Francis of Assisi to the penitents of his time.

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