Very often when we buy new things, we like to touch them, hold them. Perhaps as we pass these new purchases by, we reach out and run our hand through them or across them. That sensory perception afforded us by our touching something can be an important part of our initial connection to that item.
It is also true that when we see someone we know, or we haven't seen in a while, we reach out to touch them somehow: shaking hands, a hug, a pat on the shoulder, a squeeze on the arm; a kiss on the cheek. That touch is an important part of the connectedness we all share with other human beings. When someone suffers a loss, is in grief or sorrow, we often times reach out to touch, to hug, to hold that person's hand while they weep. Again, that physical, tangible reminder that we are not alone, that there is someone physically with us at that moment in time is important.
Jesus is laying hands on children today, praying for each one of them, blessing each one of them. That physical touch on each child was something deeply personal for each one of them, but also for those witnessing those moments of blessing. In church there are moments of touching: the Peace, a baptism, confirmation, reception or reaffirmation, ordinations, consecrations. And outside of church, anointing of the sick and the dying involve touch, a physical manifestation of blessings. God wants to touch us, to bless us and wants us to do that to each other.
Jesus also talks about another kind of touch today. In talking with a man inquiring how to be holy, he finally asks the man to sell all his possessions giving the earnings from those sales to the poor, and then to follow him. That man left deeply grieved because he had many possessions. That unnamed individual, (Matthew uses the phrase Then someone came to him and said....), was touched in a different way. He was touched, possessed really, by those items he owned. Jesus recognized this unbalance in this anonymous man, and wanted to have him rethink his priorities, to understand what it means to be touched: touched by one who cares for us, by one who loves us, by one who blesses us by that touch.
Copyright 2008, John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.