The Needed Touch

Jesus called her ‘daughter’ – θυγάτηρ. I bet no one had called her that in a real face-to-face encounter. Certainly not in the 12 years that she had the flow of blood, which made her untouchable, an outcast from society.

She was cured by being recognized, by being loved, by entering relationship. But it started with touch. She touched Jesus (Luke 8:41-56). Or rather, his garments. It was as close as she could get to him because of the crowds. Faith prompted her – perhaps mixed with some superstition, that there’s magic power in the garment of Jesus. But it’s faith that Jesus saw in her, not superstitious belief. 

Jesus called her out into the open, out from hiding, in order to announce her faith openly to people who themselves were living under the same religious restrictions as she was. He liberated this woman from the religious rules that kept her in the shadows for 12 years. She touched him, and by touching him she broke one of the rules handed down by Moses! That’s how great her faith was. She risked being judged. And Jesus came to show that religion was made to serve, not enslave man.

She had lost all hope in the medical profession, she had spent all her money on doctors. Nothing worked. But in Jesus she found a healing that went far beyond the physical. She discovered a direct link to God by touching the garment of Jesus. Daughter, he called her – as in ‘daughter of Abraham‘, the most direct way to reinstate her into Jewish society. Go in peace, he told her, go in shalom. Go, you have been made well whole, not just in your physical disability, but in the whole of your being, in your spirit and heart. ἡ πίστις σου σέσωκέν σε – your faith has saved you. The verb σώζω in the Greek original doesn’t mean save in the limited sense that many people use it – namely salvation from eternal hell – but rather it is more the holistic healing that begins here on earth and leads to eternal life. We are always being saved – because every day God is working in us to make us whole.

Acts 2:47 And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

1 Cor 1:18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

2 Cor 2:15-16 For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being savedand among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. 

Did you catch the meaning of Paul in verse above? From death to death and from life to life. Those who are perishing are already dead and they may remain dead unless something happens in their lives. But those who are being saved go from life to life. The woman was one of the walking dead, an outcast from society because of her unceasing hemorrhage. But then she found Christ and her faith made her alive, made her whole, put her among those who are being saved! Because her faith touched Christ not only in his garment, but to the depths of his love for humankind. Praise God. How can we ever lose hope for anyone, no matter how far from Christ they might be, when Jesus is always willing to be touched?

We search to discover the faith in us that moves Christ deeply and profoundly. And we are called to respect the faith of the other – even if it is different, or even hidden and sick.

Christophe Lebreton was the youngest of the seven Trappist monks who were assassinated by Algerian terrorists in March of 1996. The last entry in his journal is dated March 19th and it concludes with the words: “My song is about kindness and justice. . . . I shall walk the way of perfection. When will you come to me? . . . I SHALL WALK with a perfect (love – drawing of a heart).” A few days later, he and the others of the small monastery were beheaded by Islamist jihadists. But these monks had lived in harmony with the Muslim people. Isn’t that always the case? It’s the few extremists that destroy human life, the few who cannot let go of a strict obedience to outdated rules and beliefs – or more often their own distorted understanding of rules and beliefs. Jesus was also executed by jihadists – they were called priests and pharisees. 

Christian de Chergé was the prior of the community. Two years before he and his fellow monks were executed he had written these word in his testament:

“If it should happen one day – and it could be today – that I become a victim of the terrorism that now seems ready to engulf all the foreigners living in Algeria, I would like my community, my Church and my family to remember that my life was GIVEN to God and to this country”. . . (Further on he wrote) “And I shall be able, if it pleases God, to gaze deep into the eyes of the Father and contemplate with him his children of Islam as he sees them—radiant with the glory of Christ, the fruit of his Passion, and invested with the gift of the Spirit, whose secret joy will always be in establishing communion and restoring similarities, while playing with the differences. . . .” What did he write? God’s secret joy is to establish communion and restore similarities among humans – while playing with the differences! Those differences that cause us to hate each other and to attack each other, God plays with them. That’s what we should do with our differences, play with them, enjoy them, not make them reasons for hatred and violence. 

He concluded his testament with words addressed to him or them who would execute him in some future day: “I include you, friends of yesterday and today, and you, my friends of this place, along with my mother and father, my sisters and brothers and their families, You are the hundredfold granted as was promised! And also you, my last-minute friend, who will not have known what you were doing: Yes, I want this THANK YOU and this GOODBYE to be a GOD-BLESS for you, too, because in God’s face I see yours. May we meet again as happy thieves in Paradise, if it please God, the Father of us both.”

Now that is faith. When we see God’s face in others, no matter how much they might hate us. I know it’s hard, but it takes the deepest faith.

Christ’s thirst and prayer was that all may believe and that we may be one. (John 17)

Let us also believe: close to the woman crying. Close to the man bent over. Close to the child who cannot make sense of everything that’s happening. Christ is not physically here. His Spirit is here, and we are here, to be guided by that Spirit. Jesus is not here to be touched. But we are here to be touched and to touch. It’s the needed touch if the world is to be healed and made whole again.

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