THE REED IN THE HAND OF JESUS
They put a reed in his right hand. (Mt. 27:29)
As the scarlet cloak was the figure of our sinfulness, as the thorns were the sign of our barrenness and sterility; so the reed is a striking emblem of human frailty, emptiness and inconstancy. A reed is an empty, hollow, frail, light and inconstant plant. It has no solidity. It is moved about in every direction by the least breath of wind. This despicable plant was never more honored than when it was in derision put in the divine hand of our Lord.
What an admirable figure is this of our fallen human nature! What can be more hollow and empty than the reed of a poor sinful man? Sin strips him of every supernatural grace, virtue and merit. Like the merchant of Jericho, he is robbed of all his wealth and he is left prostrate upon the ground wounded and bleeding to death. Like the eminent man of the Apocalypse who in his greedy and ridiculous vanity flatters himself that he is rich, wealthy and wants nothing, sin has made him "wretched and miserable, poor, blind and naked." (Apoc. 3:17)
Then what is more weak and frail than a sinner? Stripped of the supernatural strength of grace, left to his own innate weakness, urged by temptation, impelled by his own evil passions, he totters and falls at every step. Like a frail reed he bends to every whim of fancy and to the slightest whisper of seduction. Such is the reed of fallen human nature left to itself.
But since our Blessed Lord took this reed in his hand it has been completely changed; its hollowness has been filled with the solidity of his grace and love. In the hand of our Savior we become firmer and stronger than the cedars of Lebanon. Through faith and confidence in him we can resist the most violent temptations of hell and the fiercest storms of human persecutions. By assuming our frail nature the Son of God has endowed us with the power and strength of his divine Omnipotence, and we like St. Paul "can do everything in the power of him who strengtheneth." (Phil. 4:13) St. Ambrose says: "Our Lord has taken the reed of our humanity in his hand in order to hinder the frailty of our fallen nature from being tossed by every wind of false doctrine and to render it firm and steady by the truth of faith and solid by the fullness of virtuous works." (S. Ambrose, com. in. S. Matt. chap. 27) So long then as we remain in the hand of Jesus we are invincible. He changes us from frail and empty reeds into golden scepters of his power. With these scepters, if we remain faithful, he will make us kings of his heavenly kingdom as Origen says: "Pro calamo illo priori, dedit nobis sceptrum Regni caelestis." (Orig. Homil. 35 in Matt.)