|By Fr. Brendan McGuire
Pastor of Holy Spirit Parish, San Jose and Vicar General for special projects, Diocese of San Jose. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Open Hands; Open Hearts
Some time ago, I was at my brother’s house helping him fix something that was up high. I needed another set of hands, so I asked my nephew to help. He came willingly but when I gave him some screws to hold, both of his hands were already full. He had an iPhone in one hand and an iPad in the other! He looks at me with a blank stare! I said, “Put down your iPhone, and take this.” Reluctantly, he puts down the iPhone and takes it. I asked him, “Was it hard to understand that I needed your hands and therefore your hands needed to be empty. Right?” He smiled and nodded in understanding!
As we attend Eucharist, we too should come with open hands; we should come with an open heart. Otherwise, we cannot receive. Henry Nouwen in his book, “Open Hands, Open Heart,” speaks of the Eucharist and our need to be open to the grace of God. He says most Catholics seem to come with clenched fists to the Eucharist. Nouwen challenges us that if we are holding onto stuff when we come to the Eucharist then we cannot receive from the Lord because our hands and our hearts are full. Just like my nephew who could not help me; he could not receive what I gave until he opened his hands and let go.
What is it that we hold on to? Lots of things! Often our fists are clenched holding onto the un-forgiveness. Some of them could be only small little things that have just happened. Others are things that have happened a long time ago and we are holding onto with gritted teeth and we won’t let go. Yet we come to the Eucharist to receive!
Sometimes, we come with fists clenched with anger and frustration. We might be angry at God for what has happened. Maybe our spouse has died or somebody is very ill and there is legitimate anger. It is real anger. There is plenty of negative stuff that fill our hearts.
To receive at the table, we need to have an open hand, an open heart. We are meant to pour out to the Lord all that is going on in our heart. We pour out our unforgiveness. We pour out our angry; our frustration. We say in total honesty, “Lord, give me yourself. Give me your strength. Give me your body broken for others. Give me your blood poured out for others.”
Today, as we come forward to receive the Eucharist with open hands, let it not just be a symbol but let it be truly what we are doing, opening our heart and our hands to receive Christ. Pour out everything to him. And when we receive, we can take it and become that Body and Blood of Christ. That is the power of this feast that we celebrate today, the Body and the Blood of Christ. We must come with open hands and an open heart.