Friday, January 9, 2009


As a mother of three small children, I find myself saying variations of "don't touch" often throughout my day and week.

"Yuck, don't touch that." "Careful, don't touch." "Put that down." "Don't pick that up."

And often, when I've been ignored or a split-second too late, I follow with, "Go wash your hands." "Here, let me give you some hand sanitizer." "Wash up, now."

In this morning's Gospel reading, Jesus reached out and touched a leper to heal him. Now, being God, Jesus could have healed him without touching him. He healed many people from afar, often sending people away with the assurance that the loved one on their deathbed at home had been healed by their faith alone. So it was not necessary for Jesus to touch this leper in order to heal him. But he touched him anyway.

Again and again in his ministry, Jesus used touch as a means of conveying his love and acceptance. He touched others, and he allowed others to touch him. Father pointed out in his homily that the Church continues this tradition of touch as a physical expression of Christ's Grace and Love through the Sacraments. We use physical items -- bread, wine, oil, water -- to convey the grace of the Lord. And, we often use touch. Touch is a key element in the Sacrament of the Annointing of the Sick. Some priests also use touch during the Absolution in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. In fact, I find that the Sacrament feels more healing to me those times when the priest lays his hands on my head as he absolves me of my sins. It is through the physicality of the Sacrament that I most feel the presence of the Holy Spirit.

When I warn my children not to touch things, it is usually to protect them from some disease or harm that I can see, which, often, they cannot. I want to keep them healthy, pure, free from illness and waste.

How amazing and humbling is it that our Lord, who can see all that is unhealthy, impure, sick and wasteful inside us chooses not to stay away, but instead to reach out and touch us... and through that touch, to offer us healing, grace, peace, and love.

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