13 Sunday Ordinary Time Year B

The 3rd Century theologian and biblical scholar Origen insightfully comments that it is this woman who has the divine touch: He writes,

The outer human being has the sensible faculty of touch, and the inner human being also has touch, that touch with which the woman with a haemorrhage touched the hem of Jesus’ garment (cf. Mark 5.25-34 parr). She touched it, as He testified who said: Who touched me? (Mark 5.30). Yet just before, Peter said to Him: The multitudes are pressing upon you and you ask, ‘Who touched me?’ (Luke 9.45 parr). Peter thinks that those touching are touching in a bodily, not spiritual manner. Thus, those pressing in on Jesus were not touching Him, for they were not touching Him in faith. Only the woman, having a certain divine touch, touched Jesus and by this was healed. And because she touched Him with a divine touch, this caused power to go forth from Jesus in response to her holy touch. Hence, He says: Someone touched me: for I perceive that power has gone forth from me (Luke 8.46). It is about this healing touch that John says: Which we have touched with our hands concerning the word of life (1 John 1.1).

(Treaty on the Passover, p. 72)

I find this line from Origen thought-provoking, “those pressing in on Jesus were not touching Him, for they were not touching Him in faith”.

My reading of it is that presence ‘with’ does not mean the same as present ‘to’.

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13th Sunday Ordinary Time Year B

The Gospel story this Sunday begins with a request, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her.” (Mark 5:23)

In the environment of today, that request would not be responded to with the immediacy Jesus showed.

Rather there would be caution, a sense of alertness, a sense of “ is this ok?”

Each of the rites of our Sacraments has as part of them a ritual laying on of hands.

I know several priests who, today, are very wary of that ritual action! particularly when the Sacrament is celebrated privately, for example, the First Rite of Reconciliation and the Anointing of the Sick in a private home or hospital.

Is there cause for us to reclaim a genuine theology of the body and of touch?

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12th Sunday Ordinary Time Year B

The Carmelite nun, St Thérèse of Lisieux (1873 – 1897), lived a life that was externally unremarkable, but she knew more inner storms than most.

She wrote

“I was alone in a desert waste, or rather, my soul was like a fragile skiff tossing without a pilot in a stormy sea. I knew that Jesus was there, asleep in my little boat, but the night was too black for me to see him.

“All was darkness.

“Not even a flash of lightning pierced the clouds. There’s nothing reassuring about lightning, but, at least if the storm had burst, I should have been able to glimpse Jesus. But it was night, the dark night of the soul.”

(Story of a Soul: The Autobiography of St. Therese of Lisieux).

People passing her monastery would probably have said, “What a peaceful life they have there!”

But as St Thérèse said, Jesus was there, though apparently asleep.

He slept a lot in her company, she noticed!

But she made excuses for him: other people rarely let him sleep, and so he would come to her for a break.

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11th Sunday Ordinary Time Year B

The parable of the mustard seed was a reply to the question: could the kingdom really grow from such humble beginnings?

It seems that what life intends to be great it first makes small.

Many great things and undertakings begin in small and often hidden ways.

For example, a building begins with one brick on another, a book begins with one word on a page, a song or symphony with the first note, a journey with a single step, a forest fire from a single spark, a giant oak from an acorn, a huge river from a tiny spring, a lifelong friendship from a chance encounter.

Things that have a certain integrity and truth always seem to start from humble beginnings.

Seeds need the darkness, isolation, and cover of the earth in order to germinate.

Therefore, for something to begin small, hidden, anonymous, is in fact an advantage.

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