A Catholic Monthly Magazine

No Hands But Ours

by Anne Kerrigan

by Anne Kerrigan

“Christ has no body on earth but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes with which he looks with compassion on the world.”

St. Teresa of Avila, 1515-1582. Spanish Carmelite nun, mystic and author.

“All changed, changed utterly.”

William Butler Yeats, 1865-1939. Irish poet. Easter 1916.

A few months ago, a friend and colleague, shared that her friend had just lost a 25-year- old daughter suddenly and tragically. Jean was very upset about her friend’s devastating loss, especially since she had known this family for many, many years, and they had been a significant part of Jean’s life.

In such situations, after the initial shock and cultural rituals, life has a tendency to fall back into its routine pattern, but this grieving family has been changed utterly. It is hard for friends to know how to respond as time goes by.

Then, just last week, Jean revealed that she had met her friend for lunch. This luncheon evolved into a four hour meeting, filled with laughs, tears, memories, and shared feelings. That luncheon would not have lasted for four hours unless it was a positive, healing experience for Jean’s friend. In my opinion, Jean was the way in which Christ looked with compassion upon that woman who had lost her daughter. How else does Christ journey with us except through others? He has no body on earth but ours, and so often we don’t recognize the fact that we are actually co-creators with Christ, renewing our wounded humanity again and again. When I lost my own daughter, it was the loving compassion of God, revealed through others which brought me some peace. It was the calls, meals, cards, luncheons, love, prayers, tears, and even laughs which sustained me. Christ’s compassion was poured out to me through so many!

It is often easier to recognize that we are following God’s challenge to care for others when we participate in specific good works such as contributing to a community fund drive, donating to a local charity, or participating in a Christmas toy drive. It is in the midst of our individual and personal roles as healers and even caregivers that we often lose sight of our function as the representatives of Christ. When we are caught up in the mundane, the routine, we often view the things we do as more personal than apostolic. Yet, we are truly doing God’s work. Scripture tells us that “Whatever you do to these, you do to me.” That could not be more clear. When we care for our aging parents, our sick relatives and friends, our special needs family members, and our hurting friends, we are indeed doing God’s work. The list of those whom we help and serve is endless. Jean’s luncheon was a perfect example. Jean’s friend had a wound that was so deep, so painful that it changed her utterly. Yet, Christ’s compassion reached her through the ministrations of her friend, Jean.

Who will feed the hungry

Who will feed the hungry


Life can be complex and full of hurts of varying sizes, shapes, and depth. There is mental illness, fear, illness, divorce, betrayal and loneliness. Our wounds and the reasons for our pain are endless. How does Christ reach us and heal us? He does it through the kindness and generosity of others, which include a multitude. There are friends, co-workers, clergy, surgeons, doctors, pharmacists, and loved ones, to name just a few. That is how Christ is present to us, and the list of those who help and serve us, becoming the face of Christ for us, is almost without end. In Mark’s gospel, Jesus reminds us that one of the two greatest commandments is to “Love your neighbour as yourself.” This is what is happening when we reach out to others, and when others reach out to us. Who will feed the hungry, comfort the wounded, clothe the naked, and heal the sick if we don’t do it? Christ has no hands but ours.

The caveat here is that we often fail to recognize that it is Christ who is present in the ministrations of others, and even in our own care for others, and that this caring is actually God healing through the generosity and compassion of people. How many times have I not seen God’s self-revelation to me through the thoughtfulness of others? How many times have I missed the opportunity to be present to others? Too many times, I am sure. How do we help ourselves, train ourselves, to become more present to this phenomenon of bringing God to others and of receiving God through others?

On the runAs I reflect on this situation, I realize that many of my personal prayers happen “on the run,” allowing little time for reflection, and so I miss the subtleties of God working in my life. And, because I am seemingly always on a treadmill, I most likely miss some opportunities to be present to others in need.

Actually, I like my prayers on the run, but I think I need more quiet time in order to really consider what is happening in my life and in my relationship with God. Finding time to quietly pray in the midst of a busy life is a challenge for me, but I honestly believe that it has the potential to deepen my relationship with God. I believe that it will make me more aware so that I may see more clearly. Even Christ had to retreat into the desert, away from the multitudes, in order to pray!

“His reputation continued to grow. And large crowds would gather to hear Him and to have their sickness cured, but He would always go off to some place where He could be alone and pray.”
Luke 6:15-16

“You must love your neighbour as yourself.”  Mark 12:31

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