19th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B

While living and working on the island of Ovalau, in the Fiji group, I had the misfortune to sprain my ankle.

I hobbled into the Church the following morning and was asked by one of the elderly women, who with others had gathered for morning Mass what was wrong.

I explained my predicament and was told to see her after Mass.

We went over to the parish house, where she asked me to sit and remove my sandal.

She placed my foot on her lap and began to massage the ankle.

She returned in the evening and on three subsequent days (morning and evening) to massage the ankle.

The ankle healed! No strapping, no doctor’s visit, no pills.

Simply, and profoundly, there was only touch.

The touch of the elderly woman healed and made whole.

Touch heals and makes whole!

Christ enters the physical, becomes one with it, blesses it, redeems it, and tells us that there is no reason to escape from it.

Something in that goes against the grain.

Christ’s relationship to the physical scandalized his contemporaries, “This is intolerable language!” is what the crowds said when Jesus spoke of the physical character of the Eucharist in John’s Gospel, and this raw physicality is still hard for many to accept today.

But it’s also a wonderful part of Christianity. In the Eucharist, our skin gets touched.

The late essayist and novelist, Andre Dubus, (1936 – 1999) once wrote a wonderful little apologia as to why he went to Eucharist regularly, despite the critical circles he moved in:

“This morning I received the sacrament I still believe in: at seven-fifteen the priest elevated the host, then the chalice, and spoke the words of the ritual, and the bread became flesh, the wine became blood, and minutes later I placed on my tongue the taste of forgiveness and of love that affirmed, perhaps celebrated, my being alive, my being mortal.

“This has nothing to do with immortality, with eternity; I love the earth too much to contemplate a life apart from it, although I believe in that life.

“No, this has to do with mortality and the touch of flesh, and my belief in the sacrament of the Eucharist is simple: without touch, God is a monologue, an idea, a philosophy; he must touch and be touched, the tongue on flesh, and that touch is the result of the monologues, the idea, the philosophies which led to faith; but in the instant of the touch there is no place for thinking, for talking, the silent touch affirms all that, and goes deeper: it affirms the mysteries of love and mortality.”

While the woman massaged the sprain, the skin area grew noticeably warmer.

Have you ever felt warm after receiving Jesus at Eucharist?

“My flesh is real food, and my blood is real drink.” (Jn 6:55)

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