A reflection for priests:
Father, you’ve got a nail in your hand. right there. Between the radius and the ulna bones below the wrist. That nail is capable of bearing the weight of a body hanging in crucifixion. Grab onto that nail, Father. Never quit. Never let go of it.
That nail, painful as it is, conforms you to The Crucified. That nail to you is failure and weakness and capitulation. But that nail is LOVE. His LOVE. And that is stronger than your weakness. The way to overcome all falls and obstacles is that nail through that wound. It requires failure to reach true humility.
After the Resurrection, he breathed on them, the very men that, to a man, abandoned him in his need. He wished them peace and breathed on them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” Now also consider how he breathed on the Cross. He could only relax the diaphragm to exhale by standing on the nails in his feet and pulling on the nails in his hands and wrists. He had to writhe in agony, moving up and down to breathe, likely swooning until suffocation awoke him and he dragged himself up again to breathe.
How is it that we can think Jesus is someone we can’t relate to in our failures? An addict? An alcoholic? A slave to sin can’t relate to Jesus? Think again.
Our sins and his love pinned him to the Cross. Those nails are gifts TO US to learn that, not in spite of, but through our falls and weakness we can learn to rely on a love beyond ours…his. Our nails of our design are tinfoil, easily ripped, utterly unsupportive and guaranteed to fail. Christ’s nails, his love, remain in the doorways (his open wounds) to the Father that he personally prepared for each of us.
Have you ever had a deep wound you had to move or use to support your weight before it healed? Its tinfoil, isn’t it? When our tinfoil rips and we fall and separate ourselves from his love, his wounds, his nails, are the only remedy. Return to the wounds, rise, climb up, cling to the Crucifix. Invoke his strong wounds. Cling to those nails and hold them tight even as the deep wounds hurt and your tinfoil can’t support them.
Emotions, especially after failing, can be large, clear targets for the devil to aim at and exploit so as to induce darkness, desolation, depression, and despair and a dangerous kind of laziness. Relying on our tired selves, we are already beaten and too wearied to fight. Have you ever asked an addict or an alcoholic who has sought suicide after a fall, why they would consider such a solution? Is not a common answer, “I’m sick and tired of fighting.” Maybe like Pope Francis reminds us, we are really sick and tired of fighting and failing and having to repeatedly ask forgiveness.
Consider this: Jesus was sick and tired too. What?! Yes, he allowed himself that psychological experience of mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual exhaustion but demonstrated instead how we weak fallen creatures can keep rising and fighting anyway. CLING TO THOSE NAILS. Divinely exploit those wounds, our wounds, as passageways into his unshakable, indefatigable love, strength, and mercy. Don’t let go of his nails. Let them become yours.
When a priest is ordained it is customary in the receiving line for his first blessing to kiss the anointed hands still sweetly smelling of chrism. It is easy then to think of holiness and grace. And too easy to expect the odor of the anointing will never fade in ordinary (and extraordinary) human failings. But it will.
Christ the High Priest is preparing those hands for his nails – his love – by way of human weakness. When we kiss the palms, we also kiss the nails. Pray for your priest to rely solely on God. He cannot do that without your prayers.