Little hands are open, palms facing up. There is a fading blue marker stain in the middle of the palm looking like it is slowly being washed and worn off. The young girl looks up at me, her face solemn as she says her “Amen.” Her fingers are long for such a young one, and more importantly, unstained. I instinctively place the host on top of her fingers rather than in the marked palm. Some might object: she should receive in the mouth if her hands were stained, but she is a youngster and probably figured if she washed her hands, they are clean. Others might object: a communicant has the right to decide how to receive; it’s not my place to judge the cleanliness of her hands any more than I would want her to judge the cleanliness of mine.
It is always a privilege to distribute Holy Communion to my fellow congregants. But the thought of this little girl with the stained hands stayed with me long after Mass ended. The more I pondered it and my reaction to her, the more it made me think of my relationship with God. Specifically during the Mass when we say, “we lift them [our hearts] up to the Lord,” I have often felt something lacking. It’s as though I wish I could brush off the imperfections from my heart before I lift it up. I do lift it up anyway, as is, with hope in God’s mercy. Why do we lift up our hearts to the Lord? It is right and just. We render, or give back, to God what God has given to us. Although we should not expect any payback, God gives us His Son in the Eucharist. And so we open wide, either our hands or mouths, taking in the most holy of sacraments. And God accepts us with stained hands, hearts and all.