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|Today's Take: NCR's daily Web column|
|Each weekday over the course of a week, a member of the NCR staff offers a commentary on one or more topics in the news. It's our way of introducing you to some of the people carrying out the NCR mission of faith and justice based journalism.|
|February 3, 2004||
Vol. 1, No. 194
The sacrament of touch
By Pat Marrin, editor of Celebration
David Vetter's story, extreme and tragic, reminds us that our identity is written in touch. "Who touched me?" might be the title of every autobiography. Our sense of self, our otherness and our capacity for intimacy with others, is first traced like circuitry by the hands that hold and touch us. If we emerge from childhood confident, integral, self-possessed, it is because we bear the deep blessing of having been touched well. We can enter the flow of life, the welter and crush of the crowd, find our way, give ourselves with grace and equanimity.
But what of those who do not bear this blessing? What of those who bear hidden wounds, because of the lack of touch or, for some, the experience of forced or inappropriate touch? These are imprinted with a confusion of pain and pleasure, fear and desire, and trust betrayed that deprives them of confidence, a sense of wholeness or equilibrium. Will those with hidden wounds heal?
The late Benedictine Godfrey Diekmann held that the primary sacramental sign was touch. Jesus, source of all our sacraments, was generous to a fault with touch. The mystery of his own wholeness was communicated to others through touch.
The woman who approached Jesus in the crowd in today's gospel reading knew that if she could reach even the edge of his cloak, she would be healed. Jesus, though caught in the press of the crowd, feels her faith draw life from him. "Who touched me?" he asks. The woman's touch made a vital connection, acknowledging Jesus as source of God's healing power.
Jesus' ministry seems almost defined by a deliberate urgency to search out and touch those who most needed to be reconnected to God. He stretches out his hand to touch lepers, the ritually unclean, the possessed, diseased and contaminated who were cast out of the community, excluded from worship, the common meal, the inner circle.
David Clohessy, executive director of SNAP (Survivor's Network of those Abused by Priests) and himself a victim of abuse, weeps when he gives interviews. His tears are his first ministry to other victims, because in this sign of vulnerability he acknowledges the reality of their shared pain and loss.
Such words barely touch the surface. Today we have the witness of an untouchable woman whose life was bleeding away, who trusted enough to push through the crowds to touch the hem of Jesus' cloak. She was made whole. Holy touch restores life. Deeper than any hurt, the Hand that holds us traces into our identity the unconditional love of God. We are marked with this sign of faith.
Pat Marrin's e-mail addres is firstname.lastname@example.org. Celebration, NCR's sister publication, is an ecumenical worship resource. For a preview, follow this link: Celebration.
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