Sense of touch connects us with Jesus

By | June 29, 2012

Many years ago, I belonged to a parish with a man who had a fear of germs. He really disliked having to touch anyone, however he wanted to be a faithful participant in the liturgy, so each time the sign of peace came around, he would roll up his missalette, turn to those around him and deliver a sold “whack” upon their palm as he said “Peace be with you.” I do not remember other people who have reached out to touch my hand at the sign of peace, but I will never forget Leonard!

In the Gospel for this weekend (longer form), we hear about a woman who so deeply respected the power of touch, that she believed with all her heart, that to merely touch the hem of Jesus’ garment would connect her to Jesus and his healing grace.

When we gather for liturgy, our sense of touch can deeply connect us to Jesus. It begins at the entrance, when our hands reach out to open the door into the sacred space of the church. As we make our way through the gathering area of the vestibule, hands touch one another in greeting; arms embrace one another in welcome.

Making our way to a pew, we stop; our hands reach out to the holy water font. We feel the coolness of the water on our forehead and the light pressure as we touch our shoulders and chest, laying the outline of the cross, reminding us to whom we belong.

As you look about before Mass begins, you may see rosary beads quietly slipping through the fingers of a person near you, or see another using fingers to bless themselves and others touching and preparing candles, books and holy vessels.

As the Mass continues, hands clasp together in prayer or hold a hymnal or worship aids or pull a fidgeting child into an embrace. As our fingers wrap around the monetary gifts we bring to offer, we may note a young child excitedly clutching a quarter and proudly displaying it to the entire congregation as they await their turn to drop it into the collection basket. We watch as others on our behalf reach out to carry the bread and wine forward to the waiting hands of the priest.

The Our Father provides us with another moment when the touch of our hands, one upon another, centers us more deeply into the prayer we are praying. At the sign of peace we touch another’s hand or arm, almost in an awakening gesture “be present, Christ’s peace is here!”

As we enter the eucharistic prayer it is the touch of the priest that most engages us. He touches the pages of the missal that holds our words of prayer and faith, he holds the host or lifts the chalice, and we know that within that touch, he is doing holy things, for a holy people.

Finally, we prepare ourselves to be embraced by Christ’s very touch, we say “Lord I am not worthy that you should come under my roof, but only say the word and I will be healed,” and then we wait for the feel of the host upon our hand or tongue, and with that touch, we know it is so.

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

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