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Outlook
News and views from St. Mary's Woodbridge
Issue 8 Spring 2009
barack obama

Approaching Easter with an open hand

"The open hand or the closed fist" do you remember that phrase coined by President Obama soon after his inauguration? A phrase that marked his first approach to foreign policy? "We come with an open hand," he said. And did you, like me, breathe a sigh of relief to hear those words?

Why relief? Was it because weve had enough of the closed fist, which simply stands for rebuff and retaliation? Because for Obama himself, it stands for the kind of isolation that he knew as the immigrant child of mixed race, belonging nowhere. As the child who met his father only once in his life. As the lonely adolescent. And as an adult who met the closed fist of American society in his early work to bring about change.

Experience told him, as it tells us, that the closed fist gets us nowhere, except to a sort of stalemate and death. Whereas the open hand offers possibility, and life. It stands for welcome, acceptance, and trust. When you offer your open hand, you offer nothing less than your open mind and your goodwill.

Easter message

Most of us know this in our hearts. We know how good it is to be greeted, how painful to be rebuffed, how hard to offer our hand to our enemy. And yet, like Obama, we know that to offer the open hand is the only way to be. And at no time do we know this more profoundly than at Easter.

For at Easter we see nothing less than Gods open hand extended to us the open hand of welcome, of acceptance, offered to friend and enemy alike, even at the ultimate cost of death. It is the open hand that cannot be destroyed by our hate and rejection that is there for all eternity.

Easter shows us this simple and basic truth about God and about ourselves, about love and the cost of loving. Because an open hand is only half the story, isnt it? That is where the risk lies, always. Will it be taken? Will it be rejected, denied? That is Gods risk. And ours. And to live, knowing this, is to live with Easter in our hearts.

And its springtime as well, at Easter. Its gloves-off time hopefully! Time to flex those fingers, to take Gods outstretched hand, to hold out our own open hands to the world.