the gift and scandal of touch

As I’ve said countless times before, one of the best parts of my job is the hour a week I spend in Ms. Cashion’s classroom at Foley Elementary School.  The best (and in many ways the most heartbreaking) part of that hour is the minute I arrive and the minute before I leave.  Inevitably, there is a child (or 6) who will bum rush me, in total disregard for their teacher’s instructions, to wrap me up in a giant hug.  These kids tend to be the poorest students.  They are impoverished in grades, in economic status, and often impoverished in relationships.  Often there is no father at home.  Usually mom is working two or three jobs to scrape by.  Rarely, do these young hearts in such need of care, get the attention that they require.  And so they clamor for the gift of touch.

Desperate people often seek out the gift of touch.  In our gospel lesson for Sunday, two people on the brink of disaster look to Jesus and his touch for help.  Jairus asks Jesus, very specifically, to “come and lay hands on” his daughter, who is at the brink of death, so that she might be healed.  The Woman with the issue of blood thinks to herself, “if I can only touch the hem of his garment, I will be healed.”

Touch is a very sensitive subject in modern society.  Programs like Safeguarding God’s Children are in place to remind us all of appropriate boundaries, especially between adults and children, but we must be careful to not over react and throw the baby out with the bathwater.  Jesus reminds us of the power and scandal of touch.

Touch can give healing and joy.  Touch endangers both parties with vulnerability.  Touch is a normal part of human relationships and so our Lord, as the Incarnate One touched the unclean, the leper, and even the dead in order to restore all into right relationship.

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