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.

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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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