Sacred touch taken to a new level

By | April 18, 2012

This Sunday’s Gospel reads like a script for “The Ghost Whisperer.” Two friends of Jesus, overcome by grief, decide they need to get away from Jerusalem. They are walking an obscure road, remembering and discussing all they have recently experienced; their friend Jesus being crucified, his lifeless body lifted from the cross and sealed in a stone tomb. Suddenly a man appears right in front of them. Just when they thought things could not get any worse, they are seeing a ghost.

Recall as well, last Sunday’s reading, the story of Thomas, the apostle of “I’ll believe it when I see it” fame. No ghost believing for him, with audacity he demanded that this “ghost” do something that would make Thomas set aside his doubts.

What is so powerful about these accounts is the manner in which Jesus makes his “reveal.” He could have done a casual “hey guys, it’s really me, come and give me a hug!” Instead, he says to them, “See my wounds, touch them.”

So often, we take for granted the intimacy of sacred touch. Hand touching hand reveals the depth of a person’s love; hands reaching out to grasp a newborn baby, a parent taking a child’s hand as they guide the first stumbling steps, a couple joining their hands in marriage, or a gentle hand that feels the warmth slowly fading away into the coldness of death.

Jesus took this intimacy to a new level by inviting us to “touch my wounds.” He challenges us to see and touch the flesh that was ripped apart in love, for our sake, to touch the wounds that were inflicted through hate and sin. He challenges us to bring to those wounds, our own touch of love — that we might believe and be sealed in our love commitment to him.

This act of receiving Jesus in wounded form is difficult for us. Why couldn’t Jesus have been raised from the dead without the wounds? Seeing Jesus brought back to life with a nice, new perfect body, wouldn’t that have made the perfect Easter story? Instead, Jesus says, “Touch my wounds.” During this Easter time, it is good for us to be reminded that we do not simply hear the Gospels telling of the touch of resurrection. It is not an event that we visualize in our heads, it is something we physically do. Each time we step forward to receive the Eucharist, we are reaching out to touch the resurrected, wounded Jesus. We physically hold the mystery of love so perfect that it can embrace the wounds. The intimacy of the Eucharist is a reminder to us that the walk to resurrection always carries wounds with it.

What great love we are asked to bear, as we too, in the breaking of our bread, cry out “it is the Lord.” Then we reach out to touch.

Zahorik is director of worship at Most Blessed Sacrament Parish in Oshkosh.

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