Divine Touch

Two Healings of Lepers: In the entire four Gospels, there are two healings of lepers recorded: this one narrated by Mark (which we also find in Matthew [8:1-4] and Luke [5:12-16]), and that of the ten lepers narrated by Luke alone (Lk 17:11-19). The specificity of these healings comes out when we consider the condition of the lepers as marginalized by society and seen as “untouchable”. Contact with a leper, according to the tradition of the Jews, makes one legally unclean. Jesus, on the other hand, touches the leper, an affirmation of the superiority of mercy over the law.

When Words Are Not Enough

Jesus is moved by the faith of this suffering man and does much more than heal him: he touches him. It is a “dangerous” gesture given the high risk of contagion. But Jesus knows that there are moments in life when words are not enough. A hug is sometimes worth more than a simple “I love you” or “Take care of yourself.” Have you ever experienced a moment when you desire nothing else than to be hugged? At such a moment, thousands of words or messages might have a lesser effect than what a physical hug could do. Hugs are also therapeutic. There are times when people need to be shown some gestures of closeness beyond words.

The leper sees himself healed, yes, but above all, he feels loved by someone who does not begin to love him after the healing, but while he is still a leper. That is quite instructive. And it is precisely this love that is the cause of his healing: the healing love of the Saviour.

The Touch of Jesus

The Gospels record several moments when Jesus touches people and allows himself to be touched, sometimes breaking some known protocols. Consider the “scandal” that the Master causes in Luke 7, in the house of Simon the Pharisee, when he allows himself to be touched by a prostitute (7:36-50). We will recall Jesus touching the coffin of the son of the widow of Naim (Luke 7:11-17,) and taking Jairus’ daughter by the hand and bringing her back to life (Mark 5:41-42). A woman suffering from bleeding for 12 years touches Jesus and is instantly healed (Mark 5:24-29).

Still, about the contact with the leper, we will remember that the prophet Elisha, respecting the law, remotely heals Naaman from leprosy and does not touch him (2 Kings 5, 10-14), provoking the protest of that notable Aramean who would have liked to have – or at least see – the healer’s hand upon him. Naaman, as a pagan, did not understand the Jewish standard of legal purity. As a Jew who observes that norm, Jesus places it lower than the principle of mercy. He touches the leper. He still goes on to touch us today through the ministry of the Church and carries out his healing mission. In the confessional, Jesus touches us in a special way, and heals our souls wounded by sin. He allows us to touch him in the Holy Communion, and this is another channel of his healing love in our lives.

Do you need a hug or a special touch today? Beyond getting a physical hug from someone close to you, approach Jesus in prayer with faith and ask him to touch you. No one experiences his touch and remains the same. He wills us to be healed (Mark 1:41).

[Readings: 1 Sm 4:1-11; Mk 1:40-45]

Fr. John Bosco Obiako

Fr. JohnBosco Obiako is a priest of the Catholic Diocese of Orlu, Nigeria. He is a doctoral student of Philosophy at the Pontifical Gregorian University, Rome - Italy, with a special interest in Philosophy and Ethics of technology. He also provides spiritual and pastoral services as Chaplain to African Anglophone Catholic Community in the Diocese of Prato, Italy. Email contact: [email protected]

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