parenting in ordinary time: 33rd sunday

She obtains wool and flax and works with loving hands. She puts her hands to the distaff, and her fingers ply the spindle. She reaches out her hands to the poor, and extends her arms to the needy. (Proverbs 31: 13, 19-20)

“Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities.” (Matthew 25:21)

Here is what my hands did today: Changed diapers. Washed dishes. Stirred oatmeal. Poured milk. Dried tears. Wiped mouths. Typed emails. Filed papers. Turned pages. Hung laundry. Tickled tummies. Stacked blocks. Served dinner. Drew baths. Tucked blankets. Patted backs.

Parenting young children is hands-on. It’s dirt under nails after digging in the sandbox. It’s pruned fingertips from playing in the bath. It’s calloused thumbs from constructing cribs and climbers.

We use our hands all day long – to turn ingredients into dinner, to turn chaos into cleanliness, to turn tantrums into laughter. We work with our hands at home, in the office, in the classroom. We carry babies, we carry briefcases. The most ordinary of actions, the most basic of motions – what could be holy about hands?

And yet we prove our great love through tiny gestures, our faithfulness through small matters.

Imagine all that Jesus’ hands did. Touched lepers. Held children. Broke bread. Poured wine. Dirty, ordinary, everyday work. But done with the greatest love that ever spurred two hands to action. And so it was good; it was holy; it was divine.

People often talk about “the hand of God” as a weighty influence, orchestrating events and controlling outcomes. But the fingerprints of God are often small smudges: startling sunrises, quiet lulls, surprise encounters, well-placed words. God’s hands are at work in the world in small ways as well as grand. And inspired by our Creator, our hands are invited to create in small, everyday ways as well.

Hands and fingers, nails and skin. Whatever work we are called to in the world starts with the same two hands. And while we sometimes envy the work of other’s hands – I wish I were more artistic, I wish I were stronger – God has entrusted us with talents all our own. We are simply called to care for them well so that we can return with hands full of what they have multiplied.

What we do with our two hands becomes the work of our lives. They allow our gifts to flourish. They make our faith and our love known. They seek to leave a small corner of this world better than we found it.

As parents we hold hands, and then one day, we have to let them go. A million small gestures will pass unnoticed in between, but they are the stuff of vocation, the proof of our faithfulness.

What good work have your two hands done today? What small ways have shown your great love?

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