Allstate Insurance Company has long assured us of their “good hands.” The company logo is well known.
Two hands are open and empty, ready to cradle or catch those in need. The image evokes feelings of security. It eases anxiety about the future. In effect, Allstate’s slogan and logo tell us what we all want to hear: “everything is going to be alright.” That is…if you’re on their insurance plan.
This Sunday’s gospel also presents some “good hands.” Jesus says of his disciples that “no one can take them out of my hand.” Then, increasing the guarantee, he adds, “no one can take them out of the Father’s hand.” Like the Allstate logo, the gospel assures us of two strong hands. But unlike the logo, these hands are not spread out like a net. They don’t lie open and empty just in case we fall. These are not hands of insurance “in case you need me.” God does not await the hour of necessity. He is not standing by, ready to catch us. His hands are not an open glove, but a grip.
The Father and the Son share an eternal embrace: “the Father and I are one.” Their hands are clasped from eternity. Taking on our nature, the Son has brought our humanity into that embrace. It is a heavenly handshake and we are right in the middle of it. No one can take us out of it. In those hands, “your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Col 3:3). Your life is safe. That is…if you’re on the plan.
Allstate expects premiums. Jesus also has expectations. Those who are in his grasp are those who “hear my voice.” They are those who “follow me.” With Allstate, one may ignore the voice of caution. The premiums just go up. But ignoring the voice of Jesus is not an option. Allstate encourages following traffic laws and obeying speed limits. But if you don’t, you just pay more. However, there is no alternative to following Jesus. We are either with him or against him (Matt 12:30).
Allstate offers us open hands, but not an embrace. We can do what we want, and those hands don’t move (for a price). These are hands to catch us, not to hold us. But Jesus offers an embrace. No one can take us from it, but we can leave anytime. It is a strong grip to protect us, but not to restrain us.
We can follow any voice. But the voice to which we listen determines the hands to which we belong. Following the voice of the good shepherd, we are always in good hands.
Father George K. Nixon serves as assistant pastor at St. Philip Parish, Greenville. Ordained in 2011, he holds a licentiate in sacred theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. “Verbum Domini” is a series of Father Nixon’s reflections on the Scriptures.