God’s Loving Touch: Reflections of a Roman Catholic Woman Priest
Today’s Gospel reading ( Sunday 6/27/2021)is one of my favorite gospels. It tells the good news of Jesus healing a woman and then a girl (Mark 5:21-43). The woman had suffered hemorrhaging for twelve years and reaches out to Jesus in a crowd and connects with his garment. He knows she has touched him and when she approaches him “in fear and trembling” He says “Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be cured of your affliction.” Now her affliction was an issue of unceasing blood that also left her “unclean ” in her culture. Women, and she in particular, were not unclean for Jesus whose law of love was greater than the many laws the people followed. Not only did Jesus accept her touch, he called her “daughter” and healed her of this awful affliction. Can you imagine her relief and great joy? And for all of the women listening to this story there was also relief and great joy. We are not ever unclean, we are the daughters of our loving God. This courageous woman’s name was not recorded by the author of Mark but I will call her Alegra or JOY!
At the same time a Synagogue Official named Jairus had asked Jesus to heal his dying daughter. “Please come lay your hands on her that she may get well and live”. Jesus was on his way to do this when the woman with the hemorrhage approached him. The “laying on” of Jesus’ hands was already known to bring health and healing. This weeks several of our Gospel accounts were of Jesus’ healing touch. On Friday, 6/25 we had Jesus stretching out his hand and touching a leper who asked to be made clean. Jesus “stretched out his hand, touched him, and said, “I will do it. Be made clean”. His leprosy was cleansed immediately” (Matthew 8:1-4.) In Jesus’ great love no one is unclean and all are worthy of his touch. That includes all of the lepers of our time, people whom we shun and deem unclean., unworthy of sitting at God’s Table of Plenty, and undesirable as members of our church or place of worship. No one is unclean. Like Jesus, we are to extend loving touch to EVERYONE.
And in Saturday’s Gospel readings( Matthew 8:5-17) we have Jesus healing the Centurion’s servant by speaking words of healing, and healing Peter’s mother-in-law who was very ill with fever, by simply touching her hand. Again his touch healed. We too can speak words of healing for others whom we can not be with in person: it is called praying and we can freely and fully offer that to all who need it. The Centurion believed in Jesus but was not of his faith, and that did not matter one bit to Jesus. We can touch and pray for any and everyone there are no means tests for our prayers or our loving touches. Like Jesus, we can touch the hand or the feverish brow of those suffering with great illness. Touch is so healing.
I remember a popular song by the group The Who of many years ago: “See me, feel me, touch me, heal me”. How many long for simple human touch? We saw this at the height of Covid 19 restrictions where people would stand in a window and touch the glass where a loved one was touching to imagine loving touch. Or in jail visits where touch is not permitted hands are placed on walls and glass enclosures or the bars of cells to get as near to human touch as possible. Touch is essential and touch heals.
In today’s Gospel the crowd informs Jesus that his time with the woman was, in effect, too long and Jairus’ daughter has died. “Disregarding the message that was reported, Jesus said to the synagogue official, “Do not be afraid; just have faith”. Then he went inside with three of the disciples and found the household wailing and weeping. He told them the child was asleep and they ridiculed him. He brought the parents and his disciples into the little girl’s room and “took the child by the hand and said to her “Talitha koum” which means, “Little girl, I say to you arise” The twelve year old girl arose immediately and walked around….and they were astonished”. Again Jesus took her by the hand and she was enlivened and healed. Who can we take by the hand? To whom can we extend our hands full of healing and love? Can our hands bring life as Jesus’ hands did. The answer is YES!
Bishop Bridget Mary Meehan, ARCWP is a very popular blogger and a caring, strong and wise leader in the Roman Catholic Women Priest Movement, and I am blessed that she is also my dear friend. She, and members of her beloved congregation, Mary Mother Of Jesus Inclusive Catholic Community in Sarasota, Florida have recently faced, and are facing, much serious illness. We were to join in prayer about this. Yet she reached out with love and understanding as Carol Schauf and I visited with her last night after I presided at the funeral of a beloved friend from my childhood, Jean Tracy Forman. Jean who was one of the most caring and gentle people I have ever known, loved all of creation, especially God’s little creatures both animal and human, died on May 22nd from drowning while at the beach. While I was lifted by the Holy Spirit to minister to the large group who gathered, I needed the support of my friend Carol who accompanied me and assisted me at the funeral and of Bridget Mary who understood what such pastoring can take out of you. As Jesus knew when the woman touched his garment- “the power has gone out”. I was full of love for those who mourned and all of their complex feelings, I was guided where to reach out, and I was depleted. Our visit in the midst of the powerful thunderstorm that started a second after the burial, gave me the lift and perspective I needed to continue on. Indeed, in addition to the healing prayers and words, touch had been a big part of the healing of the day. I embraced the daughter and sons and touched friend’s shoulders or arms lightly. And, now, indeed it was the hugs and touch of my friends that brought me back to life.
Here I am giving the link to Bridgetmarys blog where she has the most beautiful video of the song “Lay your hands” by Carey Landry. Take time with this lovely song and video and look into your worlds, and into our often fractured and divided world to see where loving touch is needed. Then reach out and gently share your touch through which our loving God can heal.
Pastor Judy Lee, RCWP
Good shepherd Inclusive Catholic Ministry
Fort Myers, Florida