A scene from Michelangelo’s famous painting of the Sistine Chapel ceiling shows God reaching out his hand to give the gift of life to Adam. The figure of God is stretched out, body, arm and index finger extended, suggesting that God is yearning to bridge the gap between us and bless us with the gift of life. Yet, when we look at the image of Adam we see a figure relaxed and almost indifferent, reclining away from God with arm rested on knee and hand lithely offered. God yearns to bridge the gap between us, to be in contact with us, but we seem to not participate with the same yearning and we seem not to want the blessing. The outstretched hand of peace and new life is not accepted. That reluctance is too often mirrored in our relationships with each other as well. When we look around ourselves in this faith community, in our families, and the world at large, where do we see the hand of peace either not extended or not accepted? Where are the opportunities for us to again extend the hand of peace and where are the opportunities to receive the hand that has been offered?
As those who have been baptized in Christ and as those who are bearers of the Spirit of God, it is our holy calling to be people who strive to reach out to others with the offer of peace and new life. God’s yearnings are to be our yearnings. God’s leaning into those separated from Him, is to be our orientation as well. God’s hand is to be our hand. Catholic priest and spiritual writer Henri Nouwen describes the consequences of not extending the hand of peace. Those are consequences we see too often. He writes: “As long as there is distance between us and we cannot look in each other’s eyes, all sorts of false ideas and images arise. We give them names, make jokes about them, cover them with our prejudices, and avoid direct contact. We think of them as enemies. We forget that they love as we love, care for their children as we care for ours, become sick and die as we do. We forget that they are our brothers and sisters and treat them as objects that can be destroyed at will. Only when we have the courage to cross the street and look in one another’s eyes can we see there that we are children of the same God and members of the same human family."
Nouwen’s words remind us that we are called by our Lord bridge the gap that divides us and to be bridge builders for peace. Just as Jesus reached out and across the gap to those outside acceptable society ‐ the Samaritan, the leper, the demon possessed, and such ‐ we are called to reach out to others, especially those different from ourselves and those beyond the pale. To do so may be costly to our reputations and our lives, just as it was costly to Jesus.
I am grateful for all the bridges of peace that exist in this parish. Let us be prayerful and faithful in seeking new ways in which we can create new bridges so that the fullness of God’s vision of peace and new life for His people can become ever more manifest in this parish, in our lives, and in the larger world around us.