"Someone give me a hand, please!" We've all made that appeal when we couldn't manage by ourselves. Perhaps we were a bit shaky on our feet and needed a supporting hand. That's true for me. Although I can still say Mass I now need other steadier people to distribute Holy Communion for me. Their helping hand is not only of practical assistance, enabling me to continue celebrating Mass; it also creates a bond between us. That's true whenever we ask for help or respond to someone else's appeal for assistance.
Perhaps, it comes as a surprise that, Jesus should cry out, "Someone give me a hand, please!" Surely He can't need any help from us! After all, He is Almighty God and can do all that He wants to do, without our assistance. And yet, throughout the ages He cries, "Someone give me a hand, please!"
Now that He's ascended to heaven He needs other people to continue His work, here on earth. Otherwise it won't get done. Almighty God has made himself dependent upon us, His creatures. He needs people to continue to express the love, care and compassion He showed while here on earth. It is to the glory of God that He makes so many of His creatures His fellow-workers. Together with Him we share in developing and perfecting His creation.
"And that's precisely what you do," I told a doctor friend. "As a doctor you continue and share in the work of Christ, the Good Physician. In the past, while here on earth, He performed miracles to cure people; now He uses your professional skills. Now He works through your healing hands. What is more, as you restore people's health you foreshadow the Coming of the Kingdom, when we will all be renewed in Christ. Then we will enjoy the fullness of life in our risen Lord." My doctor friend was glorious in being a co-healer with the Good Physician.
This insight came as an exciting revelation to my doctor friend. Building on his enthusiastic response, I explained that Christ, the healer, identified with the doctor, or nurse, in their caring for the sick. And as they continued the work of the Good Physician they could identify with Him. Not only priests should be called, "Other Christs," but so, too, all those through whom He continues to work. In you the sick meet Christ, the compassionate healer.
The same is true with all of us as we show love and concern for people in any kind of need -the lonely, who welcome company, the depressed who yearn for reassurance, the imprisoned who have made themselves into social rejects. As we come to them they meet the compassionate Christ, working in and through us. For each of us "Other Christs" I paraphrase the words of Pope St. Leo the Great, "Oh, Christian, realize -and remember -your dignity!"
As I turned these thoughts over in my mind I recalled St. Matthew's Gospel, ch. 25. There Jesus identifies, not with the giver, but the receiver -with those in any kind of need, "Truly, I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these, who are members of my family, you did it to me." They, too, are "Other Christs." This time it is Christ who is appealing to us for help. Through them He begs us, "Give me a hand, please!"
As we come to their assistance we meet Christ, who has identified with them. That should change our whole attitude to those whom we may find repulsive. Like the crucified Christ, they, too, may be despised and rejected. And it is remarkable how often carers say that they receive so much from responding to the needs of others. In giving we do, indeed, receive.
As I pulled these disparate reflections together I realized that there's a wonderful dialogue between Christ identifying with the giver and Christ identifying with the receiver -the doctor or carer on the one hand; the patient on the other. Christ identifies with each. Each meets Christ in the other. To each of them Leo the Great would say, "Oh, Christian, remember your own dignity; Oh, Christian, remember each other's dignity!"
In a fortnight Fr. Peter will reflect on: "Tomorow will bring...?"