Feel Christ’s peace in the gift of touch

By | March 30, 2011

On this fourth Sunday of Lent we are reminded of the gift of sight and the importance of touch in our lives. As Samuel watched the sons of Jesse, waiting for the one he was to anoint as king, God reminded the prophet that outward appearances can be deceptive and that God sees things differently than we do. When Samuel knew that David was the chosen one, he anointed him with oil. In the Gospel account, Jesus encountered a blind man and by making clay and anointing his eyes, he restored the man’s sight. He went beyond physical healing and offered him the gift of faith and insight.

Throughout his ministry, Jesus used the gift of touch as he blessed children, laid hands on the sick and sinful, multiplied loaves and fishes and calmed the sea. On his final evening with the disciples, he even allowed himself to be embraced and kissed by Judas, knowing that his touch expressed betrayal rather than love and friendship.

As human beings, the tangible and sensate are important to us. When we are hugged or hear soothing words, we know that we are loved. A warm handshake, a gentle pat on the shoulder and even the casserole delivered to the house at the time of death express sympathy and caring better than words, which seem inadequate in times of sorrow.

The church uses the gift of touch in worship to help us experience God’s presence and the intangible gifts of faith and grace. The person being baptized feels the water and the tracing of the cross on the forehead and anointing with oil.

In the Eucharist, we bring bread and wine, gifts of creation and the work of human hands, to be transformed. In receiving Christ as nourishment, we taste the elements and savor his presence within us. But we also feel the placement of the consecrated host in our hand or on our tongue as we hold the very God who holds us.

In the sacrament of penance, those who celebrate in a reconciliation room without a screen between themselves and the priest can physically feel Christ’s peace as the priest places his hand on their heads at the time of absolution.

For the sick and elderly among us, the anointing of the sick includes the priest laying his hands on people’s heads as he prays for them and the anointing of their hands with oil as a sign of healing, strength and forgiveness.

In marriage, the couple holds hands as they pledge their lives to each other, and place a ring on each other’s finger.

Healthy touch is a precious gift that enhances every human and divine experience. As we live this week of Lent, remembering Christ’s touch of the blind man and the ways he touches us, perhaps we can be more conscious of the ways we touch others in a sign of support, of healing, to calm and reassure and to express affection and friendship.

 

Sr. Rehrauer is the diocesan director of Evangelization and Worship.

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