June 25, 2020 – Friday of the 12th Week in Ordinary Time
Click here for the readings (https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/062521.cfm)
How many of us who found it hard to observe the “no touching” protocol from our medical experts? It must have been very difficult at the beginning. But some might have been used by now. And because of the daily infections, we are still advised to refrain from touching people or things. Touch only when it is necessary.
Yet, naturally, we have been so used to touch. In expressing our affection we touch. When we give comfort to a friend or a person we love, we touch. When we greet a friend or even a stranger, we also touch. In our religious practices, we also touch. When we pray and ask the intercession of the saints, we touch their sacred statues or kiss the holy images of our Lord. However, with this pandemic we are all advised to refrain.
Today, many are still being confined at home but much better compared the early months of covid. Our movements are still limited and our desire to meet our friends and loved ones are sometimes prohibited or limited. For more than a year, we long for a human touch and long for human encounters. Thus, we could also understand the frustration that we feel because of this significant change in our life.
And with this pandemic, limiting and prohibiting us to touch others, it surely brought more difficulties to those who were/are infected with this terrible disease. But, more than the virus, the depression, the loneliness, the desperation and helplessness, fear and anxiety would have definitely haunted them too. I have friends who asked for prayers for their loved ones infected by the virus and friends who themselves got infected and were isolated from their loved ones. Those whom they loved, parents, siblings or children were prevented to visit them. This created so much stress and longing. Yet, they cannot help it because of the danger of infecting those whom they love.
These frustrations and longing to be touched or to have a human encounter is innate in us. Not being able to touch and be touched by the people whom we love would give us emptiness.
This is the story we also heard from the Gospel. A leper was discriminated and was socially isolated because of his illness. But he came to Jesus. He asked for healing. Yet, that was totally against the culture and belief at that time. The community despised lepers and they were always driven out of the city. They should and never be near with anyone.
Yet, he must have longed for an encounter with another human being who understands and shows compassion. In his desire to be touched, through Jesus, he too was touched by God.
Jesus knew the longing of this leper. As the leper longed for human encounter, for acceptance, he also longed to be touched, to be loved. Against the culture and belief at that time, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him.
The touch of Jesus made this leper clean and healed. Jesus’ touch assured him that God has not left him and that God loves him. Thus, this reminds us that our touch can be a form of loving, can be an expression of healing, of freedom.
This is the invitation today. Though physically it is difficult these days to touch others, but at least make an effort to let those who need love and understanding be touched by our presence. Though we may not be able to caress the back of a friend for comfort, let those who are grieving and depressed, those who are in pain and lost, to be touched by the assurance of our friendship. Let those who are hungry and suffering in dire poverty be touched also by our generosity. Hinaut pa.