The hand I held had bony knuckles and slender fingers. It was warm, worn, and vital. A thousand times, I’d watched those fingers move with great determination – and over the years more haltingly – along the neck of a banjo shaping chord progressions to old-time songs like “The World Is Waiting for the Sunrise.”
It was the 85-year-old hand belonging to one of my great Franciscan heroes, Christian Mondor OFM, an amateur banjoist, surfer, and Catholic priest who was now lying in a hospital bed recovering from major heart surgery. There had been complications and close calls, so as I held his hand and saw him open his eyes and give me a brave and weary smile, it’s no wonder that a flood of emotion opened inside me. He squeezed my hand and I can feel it even now, a gusher of relief, gratitude, and love.
Countless times I’ve recalled the way he squeezed my hand that day and always, it seems, when we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord and hear the words from Isaiah: “I, the Lord, have called you for the victory of justice, I have grasped you by the hand.” Christian reached out his gnarled Franciscan banjo hand across denominational religious lines – ministers, rabbis, elders, and imams were his friends. He anointed the sick with those bony fingers, even getting up from his hospital bed to do so, when he heard a friend was in bed in the room next door!
Our baptism assures us that we’re not alone and that, in fact, we’ve been entrusted with a mission. When God takes our hand through Jesus, we’re vitalized and given a task. I can dare to offer the “victory of justice”, the “sunrise” Christian sang about, the one the world is waiting for.
Fr. Dan ofm, Pastor