TOUCHING LIVES MATTERS REFLECTION FOR THE 6TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (YEAR B) Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

Can you remember being touched by someone, something, or an event to the extent that your life was transformed? I confess that the best moments in my priestly ministry are those times when people tell me that I gainfully touched their lives though I am only an instrument in the hands of God.  

A homeless beggar once received an envelope from a stranger passing along the street where he sits to beg for alms. Opening the envelope, he noticed that the stranger left a large sum of money running into some thousands of dollars, and there was a note that says, “I want this money to change your life.”  

The beggar was amazed to see a large sum of money and the note, but what he did after would shock you. He went around the city, sharing the money with other beggars and telling each the same thing, “I want this money to change your life.” The stranger who was watching from a distance froze in tears. Coming to the beggar afterward, he commended his selfless spirit and offered to get him a home and a job in his company. By the way, the stranger happens to be one of the richest men in the region with chains of companies.   

Touching or being touched is a significant human experience. We go through life touching and being touched by people through words and actions. In short, nothing moves unless there is an accompanying touch. Furthermore, touch can be physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual.     

In Mark’s Gospel (1:40-45), we learn about the touch encounter between Jesus and a leper. The leper comes to Jesus our Lord with the hope of healing. From the Book of Leviticus (13:1-2, 44-46), we learn about the deplorable life of lepers, which involves ritual uncleanliness and isolation. Consequently, lepers must stay away from healthy people, and healthy people would also stay away from lepers.  

We can see that ritually it was wrong for the leper to come to Jesus in the first place. However, the leper defied the limitations and breaking the protocols he comes to Jesus in total submission and reverence by bowing down and asking Jesus if he wishes to heal him. A quick lesson from the leper is that we should allow the Lord to do what He desires in our lives and not force our wishful demands on the Lord. 

The response of Jesus could have shocked everyone. He was not only moved with pity, declared that he wishes to heal him, he also goes further to break the ritual protocol by touching the leper. He could have said “be healed” without touching him as he did in some other miracles he performed. Our Lord Jesus reached out to touch the leper physically, but the touch had far-reaching mental, emotional, and spiritual effects. 

Spreading the Touch and Changing Lives 

The narrative tells us that the leper received healing as he desired by his submission to the wish of the Lord. But when Jesus asked him to say nothing to anyone but show himself to the priest as the law prescribes, he goes off, announcing the goodness of the Lord to the public in the entire region, the priest could have seen and heard him anyway.  

We could see here that the touch of Jesus goes beyond mere physical healing. The leper’s mind is also healed, leading him to appreciate the Lord’s goodness by spreading the good news to people everywhere. Here we learn that we need to respond by touching others whenever we receive a touching experience. 

Your words and actions could be a regenerative touching experience to someone; every encounter we have with people anytime, any day, and anywhere could be an opportunity to touch  their lives.  

Moving Forward! 

Life would be brighter and the earth a better place if every one of us would be moved with pity like Jesus and intentionally wish to touch someone. There are many people out there who may need a word or little support to carry on with life. Your intentional silence may be a reason for someone to give up, but your touch could make a positive difference in someone’s life.  

St. Paul encourages us in First Corinthians (10:31-11:1) to imitate him by doing everything to the glory of God and by pleasing everyone in every way possible for their salvation and not to be self-seeking. St. Paul is, in other words, encouraging us to touch lives as touch matters to all.  

In our Covid-19 infested society, the call to touch lives is even more relevant as many are touch-starved with the social distancing requirement . Reflecting on the widening gap in the social and religious landscapes, the Archbishop of Newark, New Jersey, Cardinal Joseph Tobin recommended, “Spiritual Closeness in a Time of Social Distancing.” We can maintain social distance while closely touching each other spiritually and emotionally. Distance does not keep people apart; it is the absence of touch that creates the gap.  

February 14 is widely known as Valentine’s day or lover’s day. While love does not require a special day to be celebrated, we should understand that love is only real when it is practically expressed, not when it is professed with words, pictures, and gifts. True love brings positive touch and transforms lives. Our Lord Jesus would say, “if you love me, you will keep my commandments (John 14:15). 

As we continue our faith journey, let us resolve to keep touching lives through our prayers and productive words and actions and I hope this message touches your life. 

God bless you and have a blessed week ahead. 

Fr. Bonnie. 

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