Once, when he was in one of the cities, there was a man covered with leprosy. When he saw Jesus, he bowed with his face to the ground and begged him, ‘Lord, if you choose, you can make me clean.’ Then Jesus stretched out his hand, touched him, and said, ‘I do choose. Be made clean.’
How have you known the feel of suffering-love in your life?
Have you seen
the fevered victims,
precious people devastated by a merciless disease?.
Have you looked
into the anguished faces
of families facing indescribable loss?.
Have you noticed the quiet courage
of medical workers and body bearers
defying a plague to carefully reach out to those distressed and dying?
To the lost Christ shows his face;
to the unloved He gives His embrace;
to those who cry in pain or disgrace,
Christ, makes, with His friends, a touching place.
-John L. Bell, Iona Community
When children first come close
to another person’s wound—a cut, a graze, a burn—
they fear that by touching it they will share the pain.
As adults, we recoil from people in distress,
we might be implicated in their suffering or shame.
When Jesus touched leprous skin and blinded eyes,
or took the dead child by the hand,
he risked contamination, being declared unclean.
But did he also
need to make love real,
a palpable, physical connection?
Could he feel
through warm fingertips
the stories carried by the skin?
Did he finger the isolation of illness?
Would he feel the indignities of infirmity?
Could he share the powerlessness of poverty?
Sometimes the very walls of our churches separate us from God and each other. In our various naves and sanctuaries we are safely separated from those outside, from other denominations, other religions, separated from the poor, the ugly, the dying…The house of God is not a safe place. It is a cross where time and eternity meet, and where we are – or should be – challenged to live more vulnerably, more interdependently.
Suffering cries out to be shared.
There is no healing
without the risk of holding and being held.
Surely you have felt
the pulsing warmth
of another hand in yours?
Such fragile, mysterious gifts are we,
messengers of a God-embodied,
come to feel through us the burn of love.
Every human palm,
saturated with sensate receptors,
can stretch out to hold and feel, or reach in to know and heal.
But a Samaritan while travelling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him.
Consider your own hands,
that have borne suffering
and been stung by violence.
Hands that have inflicted pain,
and been calloused
by rejection or distain.
These hands have brought consolation
and have known
the touch of tenderness.
Such strong, gentle hands,
anointed to care and caress,
and bring the healing Reign close at hand.
God of day and darkness,
bless these holy hands, for the tasks of restoration:
the holding, healing, feeding, and forgiving work of the Gospel.
We are called to play the good Samaritan on life’s roadside; but that will be only an initial act. One day the whole Jericho road must be transformed so that men and women will not be beaten and robbed as they make their journey through life. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it understands that an edifice that produces beggars needs restructuring.
-Martin Luther King Jr.
Will you risk being touched by the suffering within the reach of your hands?