June 30 – Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

One of my best friends’ love language is physical touch. This means that he shows his affection by shaking hands or patting you on the back or giving you a hug. Physical touch is not my love language. So my friend had to learn that there were times when I just wasn’t in a place to receive affection through physical touch. I could really relate to Jesus saying, “Who touched me?” But on the other hand, I had to learn that physical touch is how he showed affection and to accept a hug from him as a sign of friendship rather than as a sign to run away.

There is something very powerful in physical touch. In almost every healing encounter, Jesus touches the person He heals. This continues in the Church today in the Anointing of the Sick. The priest lays his hands on the head of the sick person, invoking the Holy Spirit, and then anoints the head and hands with the Oil of the Sick. This is not just a nice gesture, but the Catechism tells us “in the sacraments Christ continues to ‘touch’ us in order to heal us” (CCC 1504).

But something different happens in our Gospel this weekend. Rather than Jesus reaching out to heal a sick person, the hemorrhaging woman reaches out to touch Jesus. Because of her illness, the woman was considered ritually unclean, excluded from the life of the community, and untouchable. To all intents and purposes, she is dead to the world. She is excluded from the intimacy and love which is expressed by touch.

Jesus is able to distinguish her touch from the pressing of the crowd. Unlike the people pressing on Jesus, this woman touched Him in faith, and, as a result, she is healed. The woman’s touch, which would normally have led to uncleanness, does not make Jesus unclean, but instead makes her clean as well. Through the intimacy of touch, the woman is brought back into communion.

But the woman doesn’t take healing against Jesus’ will. Instead, by healing her through her own act of touch, Jesus affirms her dignity and welcomes her back into communion. One of the reasons why Jesus touches those He heals and the Church lays hands on people in the sacraments is because we are body and soul, and that touch expresses in a physical way the love and mercy of Christ we experience in our souls.

Maybe many of us don’t believe that Christ wants to heal us and believe we need to sneak up behind Him and steal the healing, and so we approach Him in fear and trembling like the woman. But Jesus truly wants our healing, and He still reaches out to heal us today. Like I had to learn to accept that my friend was expressing love through physical touch, so we also need to allow Jesus to touch us to heal us and to extend that touch of healing to everyone we meet.

Father Frank