God’s Caress of Mercy and Friendship – Part 3

Allowing our God-Friend to caress us with Mercy

A month before those lockdowns and enhanced community quarantines were imposed, in March of 2020, I was in Mactan-Cebu Airport waiting for my flight back to Davao. While I was sitting and scanning my Facebook wall, in front of me was a baby girl in the arms of her mother. After a while the baby started crying. It was quite annoying because the baby was too loud. But babies cry like that anyhow.

However, what moved me so much was the response of the older brother who was about 5 or 6 years old. When his baby sister cried, he stopped playing the phone and moved closer to his mother. And then, he started caressing the face of his baby sister and hummed a song I cannot recognize. That caress must have brought comfort to his baby sister because few minutes later, she stopped crying and slept again.

It moved me so much because that small gesture created an impact of gentleness and affection. To be able to touch in a form of a caress truly expresses gentleness and affection. It brings comfort, peace, restoration, healing, and also reconciliation to a heart that is wounded by failures, trauma, anger, hatred, and sin.

Indeed, we are invited to allow the Lord to caress us with his mercy.

         Allow me now to read to you a story in the Gospel of Luke chapter 7 verses 12 to 15.

As he drew near to the gate of the city,
a man who had died was being carried out,
the only son of his mother, and she was a widow.
A large crowd from the city was with her.
When the Lord saw her,
 he was moved with pity for her and said to her,
“Do not weep.”
He stepped forward and touched the coffin;
at this the bearers halted, and he said,
“Young man, I tell you, arise!”
The dead man sat up and began to speak,
and Jesus gave him to his mother.

When you get a sprain on your ankle or any part of the body, what usually do you do with it? Is it not that you seek a massage/hilot for healing? When a child stumbles and gets hurt, a parent would console the child by caressing the painful part of the body, isn’t it? When lovers meet together, is it not that they automatically caress one another to show their affection? Among farmers, it is just natural and part of being a farmer to caress many times their livestock and plants. It is in touching them that a farmer makes a connection with his plants and animals. When we visit churches and pray before holy images, is it not that we also touch those sacred statues and images, hoping that our prayers will be granted?

Moreover, there is certainly power of healing in touching. Yet, touching can also be a form of destruction especially when our touch involves malice and greed.

Just like for example, when stalactites and stalagmites and other cave formations are being touched by human hands, there is a danger that their growth will be prevented or will be damaged in a split of a second by a simple touch. When touched by many, the oil and dirt in our hands could also turn these white deposits of calcium carbonate into black and destroy their process and formation which were formed for thousands or millions of years.

When forests are also touched by greedy human hands, our natural resources are depleted and destroyed and could even bring destruction to us and even to unimaginable destruction. This is also true when our government projects, local and national budgets are under the hands of greedy and corrupt officials, then, we get poor infrastructures, poor services, swelling government debts that tax payers will pay, and troubling inflation of basic commodities.

Additionally, when a husband becomes manipulative and controlling over his wife and children, his touch also becomes destructive and abusive. His caress becomes punches and hurtful words towards the people around him. Or when a wife and mother turned to be self-centered, her caress will also become indifferent, her actions become brutal and words become damaging to the self-image of growing children.

Certainly, a touch can bring healing and life or it could also bring destruction, pain and death. As Christians, what we are called is to touch others with the intention to bring healing, freedom and life. And we can only do that when our touch is in a form of a caress as God our friend caresses us with mercy. Yet, we can also only caress with mercy when we allow God our friend to caress us and “caress the wounds of our sins[1]” with mercy.

In fact, the Gospel story that we have read from Luke, tells us of Jesus who witnessed a funeral procession of a young man. This event is actually pregnant with invitations where we shall see how the Lord has come to meet us in order to touch us with mercy and his liberating friendship.

So, allow me once again to bring you step by step, deeper into this story.

First, Jesus was coming in to the city while the funeral was going out of the city. This tells us that at the city gate Jesus met this funeral procession. And it was an encounter, a meeting between life and death, of Jesus, the mother and her dead son in a coffin carried by people.

This tells us too that the Lord, certainly, meets us in a surprising way even when we think and believed there was no hope for us anymore for healing, for freedom and for being happy.

When suffering and death overwhelm us, in an amazing way, the Lord would surely come to us to give us hope. Even when other people around us would think and believe that we are beyond healing and beyond hope, but the Lord always sees hope in each of us. This was the reason why, Jesus stopped this procession, then he dared and cared to interrupt the people carrying the coffin to its resting place.

Yes, Jesus dared and cared to interrupt in order to meet us. Believe in that! This is what Jesus is telling us in this first part of this story.

Second, Jesus saw her! The Lord saw the mother. The mother was inconsolable. She was grieving for her only son. Losing him meant an end of her life too. At that time, a woman had no value in a male-dominated society. A woman cannot live alone by herself. She was already a widow. For that woman to survive she needed her son. Yet, her only protector, strength, and hope was taken away from her.

With this situation, Jesus was moved with pity. In other Bible translations, it says, “And Jesus had compassion for her.” Jesus felt the helplessness of the mother. He felt her pain of losing a son and of losing her life. For Jesus it was just so unfair. Jesus felt pity also of the young boy for being deprived from the many opportunities that his youth can offer, and that is, to grow, to enjoy life, to meet people, to give life to others, to fulfill his dreams and hopes. And so, in compassion, Jesus told her, “Do not weep.” And this was a promise of joy. It is God’s commitment to life, in order to bring joy.

Third, the encounter of Jesus with this difficult situation moved him to touch them, to touch their lives. The Gospel tells us that Jesus stepped forward, without hesitation and touched the coffin of the boy and told him, “Young man, I say to you, arise!

The young man woke up and rose up to the astonishment of the people. Jesus brought the boy back to life and also brought back life to the mother. The touch of Jesus was very symbolic here. Touching the coffin of the dead boy, made Jesus ever connected with the suffering of the people and at the same time he brought hope and life to them. The touch of Jesus surely brought hope and restored the life of that boy and of her mother. His touch was a caress that turned the bitter and painful day into joy and comfort.

What is more interesting here was how Jesus touched. The Lord actually only touched the coffin and not the body of the boy. The coffin is the image of what limits, prevents and suppresses life. The coffin is after all, a box that hides what is inside. And Jesus touched that coffin, he gave freedom, joy and new life.

To each of us too, Jesus feels the pain when we are in pain. When we are losing our desire to live, losing our dreams and hopes, losing our optimism and enthusiasm, losing our desire to love and to forgive, to be kind and generous, then, we are certainly trapped in a coffin.

Yes, we might not be fully aware this time or we might be pretending as if nothing is wrong with us but we too might be already in a coffin because people around us have put us in a box, or we could have put and limit ourselves too in a box.

Thus, this box or coffin could be our own addictions and unhealthy compulsions and coping. We could be confined within the coffin of anger and hatred, of depression and loneliness, of guilt and shame, of pretensions and self-righteousness. We could also be imprisoned within a coffin of scrupulosity, of corruption and manipulation, of dishonesty and oppression. We could also be in a coffin of pride and arrogance or lying within the coffin of our emotional pain and trauma from abuse, fear and anxiety.

My friends, the Lord desires our freedom, our joy and peace and the fullness of life for us, thus, Jesus invites us to allow him to touch us, to caress us with his mercy and friendship.

Again Pope Francis says, the Mercy of God is great, the mercy of Jesus is great; they forgive us by caressing us.[2]

In this way, hopefully we too will be able to welcome the invitations of Jesus, to ARISE and to GO IN PEACE!


         God of Mercy and Friendship, you never cease to bring your loving and tender caress into the world. I ask you now, Lord God, to caress my heart and soul once again, that I may also be filled with life, healing and freedom. Grant me also the faith and courage to caress and touch others with mercy and friendship so that I too may bring life and healing to my brothers and sisters. Amen.

[1] Ibid, xiii.

[2] Ibid, xvii.

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