TOUCH Br. Valentinus Bayuhadi Ruseno, OP
Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time [February 4, 2018] Mark 1:29-39
“He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them. (Mk 1:31)”
In today’s Gospel, we listen to the first healing miracle of Jesus, and the first person whom Jesus heals is actually a woman, Peter’s mother-in-law. Notice also Jesus’ threefold actions to this woman: comes nearer, takes her by the hand, and raises her up. These three actions are powerful not only because it brings immediate healing, but through them, Jesus empowers the woman to stand on her feet and serve (Diakonia). After the angels ministered to Jesus in the desert (Mrk 1:13), the first human who ministers to Jesus is a woman and mother.
We are human beings, and the sense of touch is the most basic in our nature. Our eyes need to be in contact with light particles to see, our ears have to receive sound wave to ears, and all our body is covered by nerve fabric just right under our skin that recognizes basic information like heat, pain, and pleasure. It is beautifully designed for us not just to survive, but also to live life to the fullest. Thus, the touch or physical contact is fundamental to human life and relationship.
We indeed learn the first values and the beauty of life through touch. As a baby, we are embraced by our parents; we begin to grow in comfort, security, and love. Yet, touch is not only needed by babies and children, but also by mature men and women. A brother who is doing ministry in one of the hospitals in Manila is once told by his mentor that an adult person needs at least a quality hug a day. He might not cure the disease, but by being physically present to the patients, he may bring hope and comfort. We shake hands to express trust to one another, we kiss as a sign of love, and even in very physical sports and games, we nurture our friendships and camaraderie.
Sadly, because of our sins and weakness, we change this powerful touch into an instrument of destruction and dehumanization. Many of our brothers and especially our sisters become victims of this inhuman touch. Many women and children receive physical and sexual abuses even inside their own houses. Many fall victim into prostitution, modern-day slavery, and child labor. Young children, instead of going to school and receiving kisses from their parent, are holding weapons to kill other children. Young women, instead of finishing their education and enjoying their youth, have to offer their bodies to feed their families. Young men, instead of taking care of their families, get into drug-addiction as to cope with joblessness and poverty.
Jesus shows us how powerful our touch is and He invites us to reclaim this power as to bring healing and empowerment, especially to those who have been suffering from this dehumanizing touch. Do our touch and action bring healing to our family and society? Does our touch empower people around us? Does our touch lead others to serve God?