A religious sister observes a man whose prayer "is enough for the both of us."
“We must share Christ’s suffering if we are to share his glory” – Romans 8:17
He comes every day to the bookstore run by the Daughters of St. Paul in Miami. He is a small man in his seventies who often wears a flannel shirt and khaki pants belted high on his waist. When he enters, he greets us in Spanish, puts his hat behind the counter, and walks to the chapel at the back. As he comes in the chapel, he genuflects with reverence. Then he walks to the crucifix on the wall to the right of the tabernacle and kneels down in front of it.
The crucifix is from Mexico; one of our sisters bought it when she went to visit family, insisting that the people of Miami would appreciate a bloody Jesus. The crucifixes of the United States are too sanitized she said, too polite to show the butchery of the crucifixion with accuracy.
Immediately the man begins to pray, his words a stream of inaudible sounds. He stretches out his arms as he whispers, his eyes closed. His prayer is so intense that when I am in the chapel I cease praying and just watch him; his prayer is enough for the both of us. He crosses himself several times, kisses his fist and then stretches out his arms again moving them slightly with emphasis. He is pleading, praising.
Every time he does this, I notice with surprise and shock that he is missing several fingers. I am mesmerized by the mangled beauty of this man’s hands, raised in praise before the cross of the violently crucified Christ. I am struck by the fact that the stubs of his hands are raised in praise, rather than anger and bitterness. I wonder if I would do the same.
The man kisses the palms of his hands and lays them tenderly several times on each of the wounds of Jesus on the cross. His hands, his feet, his head, his side. His hands linger on each wound; it is a touch of warm intimacy, a feeling with, an affection beyond any other human affection.
I feel a surge of holy envy at the sight of this man as he kisses each wound of Jesus and then kisses his mangled hands.
“Take up your cross and follow me,” says Jesus and yet I often reject even the smallest sufferings.
But as I watch this man, I feel a resolution building up in me to fall into the arms of Jesus through the suffering of my life. I want what this man has; I want to know Jesus, to speak to him as one redemptively suffering human to another.
I want Jesus, whatever it takes.