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5TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME: HOW DOES JESUS INVITE US TO TOUCH OTHERS?




Three things from today’s readings:

1.     The urgency of preaching the gospel as demanded by Christ.

2.     The urgency of service.

3.     The urgency of touch as a source of strength in ministry.

Between Paul and Christ, we see what a pastoral ministry entails, the obligation to freely proclaim the good news without expecting payback. Paul highlights that the gospel is not a commodity for sale. Rather, as custodians, disciples of the gospel have been given the mandate to spread the good news of Christ to others, especially in times of need. Saint Paul says, “Woe to me if I do not preach it!” Through reflecting on these readings, we should ask ourselves what our attitude is towards the gospel. Does faith seem like something freely taken or some strange exercise that we do when we feel comfortable about it?

 

Let’s connect the two figures mentioned in the first reading of today and in the gospel. Job, always depicted as a man of suffering, laments his situation in the first reading. Simon’s mother in-law, suffering with fever, benefits from the touch of Jesus in the gospel.

 

Job’s condition tells the story of an apparent hopelessness and chaos, “Is not man’s life on earth a drudgery? Are not his days those of hirelings?” Job seems to speak from the depth of suffering as he wonders on the meaning of existence. Does that mean that Job has no faith? The answer is no. However, the circumstances of suffering elicits questions for him. By reflecting on Job, we understand that suffering is a part of the human condition and that suffering can cause the individual to question their conditions, even if not finding answers. This is happening in our world today, especially with young men who seem confused and in doubt. We hear lamentations such as “Where is God in all these? Has He abandoned me? Does God still care about me?” This can be called the Job moment, “My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle; they come to an end without hope” (Job 7:6)

 

Christ encounters Simon’s mother in-law in the gospel, what seems like an answer to the human condition of suffering. Simon Peter’s mother in-law is experiencing physical suffering, knocked down with fever. Jesus hears about her, approaches her, grasps her hand, and helps her up. Next, they bring him people experiencing various sufferings, illness or possessed by demons. He cures them of their sickness, drives the demons out, and takes control of their negative situation. Jesus unveils for his followers the true meaning of ministering, namely, reaching out to the sick and suffering, and touching them. Jesus is not a distant healer, rather he enters into the human situation to identify with those in need. He touches them.

 

To touch means to “handle or feel gently usually with the intent to understand or appreciate.” Jesus literally touches Simon’s mother in-law. He extends himself to help her. He reaches down to her level. He makes her feel his gentle, warm affection with the intent to understand and appreciate what she is going through. Simon’s mother in-law is not an isolated case of Jesus’ healing through touch as we can in the Scriptures:

  • A man with leprosy in a city in Galilee

  • Many people in a crowd in Capernaum

  • A 12 year old girl in Capernaum

  • Two blind men in Capernaum

  • A few people in Nazareth

  • A man who was deaf and could hardly talk in the Decapolis

  • A blind man just outside Bethsaida

  • A blind man in Jerusalem

  • In a synagogue, a woman who could not stand straight

  • A servant of the high priest whose ear Peter had cut off in the garden of Gethsemane

  • Raising the young son of the widow of Nain

  • Two blind men near Jericho

  

The reality of suffering in today’s world demands that we reach out to touch people’s lives. Jesus literally touches the people to heal them. From a spiritual standpoint, Jesus has the capacity to touch everyone as God. Hence, he brings something that they do not have. That means he gives to those people what they need to make their situations better. Therefore, his touch brings hope into their lives.

 

In our own circumstances, we can look at the concept of touch in the following ways:

1.     Physical touch: For instance, someone who feels isolated or someone grieving a loss might need a physical touch as a source of comfort. A physical touch communicates empathy. It can also close the gap between persons, thereby making someone feel appreciated and cherished. Mother Teresa of Calcutta and Pope Saint John Paul 11 were popular in using physical touch to show love to the less privileged and neglected of society. It could be a hug or a warm handshake that someone needs. Do that with a smile. You might be offering some healings to the individual.

 

2.     Spiritual touch: Given that we are fundamentally spiritual beings, our relationship develops from the influence of the Holy Spirit, baptized into Christ as brothers and sisters. When Jesus touches Simon Peter’s mother in-law, for example, it is first of all, a touch elicited by the Holy Spirit. The physical touch is inspired by God’s presence in Christ, hence the efficacy becomes recovery and restoration to health. Spiritual touch reveals the presence of God’s love in us, motivating us to recognize the dignity of the individual in need. Spiritual touch is fundamental to who we are, made in God’s image and likeness. If our touch is inspired by the Holy Spirit, it brings healing and growth. For this reason, Paul states, “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God” (Rom. 8:14). See how Jesus goes to a deserted place to pray, staying in touch with the Spirit. We must stay in prayer while bringing God’s presence to others.

 

3.     Emotional touch: One wonders whether Jesus brings his emotion to those who benefit from his healing in the scriptures. The answer is yes. In several cases, scripture identifies that Jesus is moved with pity/compassion. For instance, Mark 6:34 remarks, “When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.That is an apparent description of the emotions of Jesus. Jesus feels the physical conditions of the people. He identifies with their suffering. He touches them in emotional, physical and spiritual ways.


In life, you may hear someone say of another, “He/she touched my life.” This is huge and can be interpreted in many ways. To hear that you touched someone’s life implies that you brought healing into the person’s situation. It means that you brought a change in the person’s condition. It means that you provided hope as needed. Didn’t Jesus touch Simon’s mother in-law’s life? Didn’t Jesus touch the lives of those people brought to him for healing in the gospel? Of course, he did.

 

The message for us today is a challenge as well. Physical, psychological, and economic situations impose hardships upon many people. Several individuals seem to be having their Job-moments and might be asking questions about their existence. People are looking for someone to touch them, as well as someone to touch their lives. Individuals can bring hope and answers through their special touches. The call to discipleship invites us to be like Jesus to those in need. A physical, spiritual, and emotional touch can change someone’s condition from bad to good, from good to better, and from better to best. Consider a tender touch with those you meet today. Maybe you are their “Jesus.”


READINGS: 1st- Job 7:1-4, 6-7; 2nd- 1 Cor. 9:16-19, 22-23; Gospel- Mk. 1:29-39

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