When I moved to Florida last year, I was surprised at the number of different kinds of palm trees. I had never really thought about the palm fronds that are blessed and distributed at Masses on Palm Sunday. They are suggestive of grace and majesty. How fitting that they were strewn before Jesus as he triumphantly rode into Jerusalem!
What about other kinds of palms? How about palms of hands? Often, we see crucifixes with nails puncturing the palms of Jesus’ hands. Whether he was really nailed to the cross by nails in his hands, or more likely through his wrists, the hands of Jesus were truly hurt. At the Last Supper, those hands were the hands that held the bread that he transformed into his body and the cup of wine that became his blood. Those gentle healing fingers and palms prepared these wonderful, personal gifts for us for years to come.
We also remember the many healings Jesus performed with his touch, even when he mixed by hand his saliva and mud to cure a man of blindness. We read in Matthew’s Gospel that Jesus gave a hand to a sinking, doubting, Peter and pulled him from the water (Matthew 14:29-31).
Think about our own palms. We clap them together when we are pleased or impressed with some performance or truth. We rub them together when we are cold. When we are glad about another person’s accomplishment, we might “give them five” and our hands come together in a clap.
Best of all, we can receive the Holy Eucharist host first on our palm before we reverently put it into our mouths. When we pray, we can put our palms together with our fingers pointing heavenward. Many people pray the Lord’s Prayer at Mass with open palms, symbolizing an openness to God’s will and love.
Let us Psalm 134, a psalm that promotes the lifting of hands:
Come, bless the Lord,
all you servants of the Lord
Who stand in the house of the Lord
during the hours of night.
Lift up your hands toward the sanctuary:
and bless the Lord.
May the Lord bless you from Zion,
the maker of heaven and earth.
And Psalm 63:5, a psalm of David, speaks of prayerfully lifting of the hands:
Thus will I bless you while I live;
lifting up my hands, I will call upon your name.
As we pray through Holy Week, may we ask the Lord to take us by the hand and lift us out of any waters of distraction so that we can gratefully appreciate all Jesus has selflessly done for us.