1st Week in Ordinary Time
Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand, [and] touched the leper.
In Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical The Phantom of the Opera, the title character is marred both physically and emotionally. This poor soul has suffered a lifetime of rejection and a lack of human intimacy. In the end, the kiss of the heroine Christine reaches through his self-pity and rage and brings him healing he had never thought possible.
In a similar way, when the man in today’s Gospel (Mark 1:41) asks Jesus, “Will you make me clean?” he is not asking only to be healed of his disease and disfigurement; he is also asking to be loved and welcomed by other people again.
How long had it been since this man felt the touch of another person? Not a rough shove to get him out of the way, not the cruel pelting of stones from frightened children, but a hand offered in friendship or a caress given in love. How long since he had felt any kind of human companionship? No wonder Jesus was “moved with pity” (Mark 1:41)! And no wonder he did more than speak words of healing: he “stretched out his hand” and touched him (1:41).
That touch from Jesus did more than overcome the man’s horrible disease. It overcame his isolation as well. By reaching out to him physically, Jesus drew him back into fellowship and belonging. He reconciled this man to everyone around him.
We know that human touch is vital to our emotional and spiritual health. Think of how well an infant thrives when he is held, caressed, and cradled by his mother. Think of how positively anyone responds to a reassuring clap on the shoulder, a gentle kiss on the cheek, or a warm embrace. Through simple touch, we can speak volumes to each other, both about our companionship and about God’s love and compassion.
So reach out and touch someone today. Don’t rely only on your words. And don’t leave everything to God, thinking that he will sweep in and magically transform that person’s life. Jesus is relying on you to minister his touch. He is relying on you to show people that their heavenly Father loves them, treasures them, and welcomes them into his kingdom.
“Jesus, help me overcome my hesitation so that I can minister your healing touch.”
1 Samuel 4:1-11
Psalm 44:10-11, 14-15, 24-25
Word Among Us