March 5th was Ash Wednesday, and my family planned to attend the evening Mass at St. Clare Church. After my kids returned from school in the afternoon, I first watched them work on their homework and practice the piano, and then began to prepare dinner in the kitchen. As I was retrieving clean forks from the dishwasher, I accidentally dropped a chopstick into the bottom part of the dishwasher. I immediately reached my hand in to retrieve it. Although the washing cycle had completed, the metal pipe at the bottom of the dishwasher was still burning hot, emitting heat for drying the dishes. So just as my hand got hold of the chopstick, I heard a sizzling noise that sounded like meat placed on a barbeque and saw a wisp of smoke.
My hand instantly experienced a burning sensation that brought to mind the torturous branding irons used in the old days to force confessions out of a prisoner. Due to the cramped space in the bottom layer of dishwasher, my hand was stuck and I had to endure the scorching several seconds longer as I tried to rip my hand out.
When I looked at the palm of my left hand, I saw a line of burnt gray-colored flesh about 4 inches long, half inch wide. Immediately I rubbed some ointment on it and covered it with a bandage. But it became even more painful, and the bandage would not stay on. I was frustrated because I didn’t know how I would be able to cook in this condition. After several more minutes, the area began to swell, and I thought I was going to get blisters for sure. But I needed to quickly prepare dinner so we can go to church, and as I thought of the Ash Wednesday Mass and its meaning, it made me feel better because I had merely a small physical discomfort that is so minute compared to the pain Jesus suffered for me. I really should not make a fuss out of it! The Scripture says “Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). Although the burn was still very painful, I decided to offer all of the suffering to Jesus as my sacrifice, and gave thanks to God for the opportunity to have such a special sacrifice on this special day. Then I continued to prepare dinner.
My palm was still hurting as we were driving to church, but it was much better than it was before dinner. Because my palm was covered with ointment, I kept my hand up and open to avoid getting the ointment on my clothes or on other people. Half way through Mass, my son Brandon appeared restless, so I instinctively held his right hand using my left hand to help him focus. As my palm touched his hand, the burnt area began to sting, and the pain was much sharper and more severe than before, and I had difficulty enduring this pain. Since I forgot to bring the ointment, all I could do was to fumble through my purse for hand lotion, which turned out to be completely useless. At the same time, I offered my thanks to God and the pain to Jesus once again. Immediately and very suddenly, the sharp pain completely stopped, and amazingly, it has not hurt at all since.
On the next day, the charred skinned began to peel off, and some other parts of the skin looked as if they had been ironed flat. Even the palm prints became very slight. What surprised me the most was that no blisters developed. Other than the physical burn mark, I had absolutely no pain whatsoever, because our merciful God had taken the pain completely away from me.
Ash Wednesday marks the first day of Lent, which was the beginning of forty days of repentance, prayer, sacrifice, and fasting. By means of my burnt palm, our merciful God received my sacrifice and contrition, and conferred me with faith and strength during this Lenten season and beyond. Praise and thanks be to God, may His name be glorified forever.