September 5: Touch, a Sunday Scriptures blog

Ugh! That might be our feeling on hearing in the Gospel how Jesus heals the deaf and dumb man by putting his fingers in the man’s ears and spitting and touching his tongue. This is Mark’s Gospel, the earliest Gospel, written just 30 or so years after Jesus’ death. So we get a little glimpse of the “real” Jesus, how his Jewish Christians remembered him — as an earthy Jewish faith healer, not germaphobic or distant from those who gathered to see and hear him. Twenty years later, Matthew’s Gospel has cleaned up this story, eliminated the messy details, and seated Jesus regally on a mountain for the healing. Mark’s version makes me grateful for our Catholic sacraments which use touch in memory of Jesus. There is the anointing with oil of catechumens, the anointing with sacred chrism for confirmation and ordination, the anointing with oil of the sick for the sacrament of the sick. There is the touch of the bread and wine on our tongues, the laying on of hands for confession, and the physical consummation of every sacramental marriage. This Gospel miracle story ends with the crowd being astonished and saying, “He has done all things well. He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak,” a reference to our first reading today about the messiah who will do just that. By becoming incarnate in Jesus, God affirms our sometimes messy flesh and our senses. We need to be just as astonished as the crowds were when we experience the touch of Jesus in sacraments, and in all the other ways his teaching and love is shared with others through touch. Some of us have even started touching one another again, post COVID, during the greeting of peace!

– Blog entry by Sister Mary Garascia

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