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Reach Out and Touch Someone

Fr. Luke A. Veronis

“Reach out and touch someone!” Do you remember that advertisement for a telephone company many years ago? I think it must have been when I was a youngster back in the 1970s, but I still recall the ad encouraging us to pick up the phone and call someone. “Reach out and touch someone!”

Well, today’s Gospel story could be entitled “Reach out and touch someone!” In fact, we see two different instances where people reach out and touch another person – and in both cases a miracle occurs.  First, we have a woman suffering from a terrible illness of hemorrhaging blood for 12 years, yet when she reaches out to touch Jesus, she is immediately healed. Then, we see how our Lord Himself reaches out to touch a little girl who has just died, and again, miraculously, the girl is resurrected!

Let’s recap the Gospel story: Jesus is teaching a great crowd of people when the leader of a synagogue approaches Christ, falls at His feet, and asks the Lord to come to his home because his daughter was deathly ill. Jesus sees the pain on the father’s face and agrees to go home with him. While the crowd presses all around our Lord, a woman who had suffered for 12 years from an incurable illness, tries to approach Him. The Gospel says how she had spent all her money on doctors, but to no avail. When she heard Jesus preaching, she realized that this might be her last hope for healing. She believed that Christ could heal her but didn’t want to draw attention to herself. Instead, she pushed her way through the crowd and just tried to touch the edge of His garment. She believed that by just touching his clothing, she would be healed. And that’s exactly what happened! She felt herself healed instantly the moment she touched Christ’s robe!

The story continues, though, with Jesus entering the home of the synagogue leader. As they enter, they receive the devastating news that the little daughter had died. People were wailing and mourning, but Jesus ignored the crowd and simply told the father, “Do not fear. Only believe and your daughter will be saved.” So they enter the room together, and Jesus reaches out and touches the little girl, saying, “Child, arise.” And the girl miraculously arises from the dead.

These two examples - of the woman with the hemorrhage of blood reaching out to Jesus, and then our Lord reaching out to the little girl - both offer a beautiful reminder of how we are to walk in our Christian journey. Both examples reflect the importance of “reaching out and touching someone.” First, like the sick woman, we all need to reach out and try to touch Jesus. We must seek out God and allow no obstacles to stop our desire and longing to touch Him. Simultaneously, though, we can find great comfort in assuring ourselves that while we try to reach out and touch Him, Christ Himself is already reaching out to touch us. Much greater than our own desire, Jesus longs to bring us back to abundant health and life. Our spiritual journey consists of these two actions!

Let’s look at both examples more closely. First, we have a sick woman in need of healing.  Since she is a woman who has a hemorrhage of blood, she has an illness which made her unclean according to the Jewish Law. Thus, she has a reason why she shouldn’t approach Jesus. She longed for healing and her desire and courage helped her overcome the obstacles and stigma of society. Simultaneously, she revealed great humility and great faith by not trying to draw attention to herself. She simply wanted to touch Christ’s garment in a hidden manner. She believed, truly believed that by only touching Jesus, only touching the edge of his clothes, she would be healed.

She longed for healing. She desired to get close to Christ. She had the courage to overcome any obstacle. In humility, she revealed a great faith. These all reflect essential characteristics in our own “reaching out and touching” Jesus Christ.

Don’t we all have illnesses that need healing – whether of body, mind or spirit. For many of us, it may be our pride, our self-centeredness, our self-righteousness, our ego, or some sinful or unhealthy habit. None of us, like this woman, are worthy to approach Jesus. None of us are worthy to demand his attention. And yet, God wants us to make an effort and courageously approach with humility, reaching out in faith and touching our Lord.  When we take this initiative toward Christ, He will gladly heal us.  He will readily make us whole.  He will give us the strength to overcome any sin or illness that dwells within us, and he will bring us new, abundant life.

Too often, we don’t experience the amazing healing of our Lord’s presence simply because we don’t seek it out. We think we are doomed to live the rest of our lives with our illnesses and spiritual sicknesses. Or we get so used to them, we don’t actually believe that we can experience something different.

Well, while we learn to reach out and touch Jesus, we must realize that we have a loving Father in heaven who already is reaching out to us. He longs to touch us and heal us! We have a God who has already reached out to humanity by coming on earth in human form 2000 years ago. And He continues to reach out to each one of us each and every day, longing to heal us from any infirmities that we may have. Just like Jesus reached out and touched the dead little girl, He desires to do the same to each one of us.

The Bible beautifully reveals to us that God carved each one of us in the palm of His loving hands. He meticulously created us in His tender hands, and those same hands still want to reach out and re-form us, to touch and heal us, to make us whole and new.

Many of us have heard the story “Footprints in the Sand” but I want to repeat it now because it vividly describes this point.

One night a man had a dream.  He dreamed he was walking along the beach with the Lord.  Across the sky flashed scenes from his life.  For each scene, he noticed two sets of footprints in the sand; one belonged to him, and the other to the Lord.  When the last scene of his life flashed before him, he looked at the footprints in the sand.  He noticed that many times along the path of his life there was only one set of footprints.  He also noticed that it happened at the most difficult and saddest times in his life.  This really bothered him and he questioned the Lord about it. 

“Lord, You said that once I decided to follow You, You’d walk with me all the way.  But I have noticed that during the most troublesome times in my life, there is only one set of footprints.  I don’t understand why when I needed You most, You would leave me.”  The Lord replied, “My precious, precious child, I love you and would never leave you.  During your times of trial and suffering, when you see only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you, it was then that I had you in my loving hands.”

The hands of God reaching out and carrying us during our times of trial.  The hands of God reaching out and healing us during our times of sickness.  The hands of God, reaching out comforting us during our times of sorrow.  The hands of God reaching out and forgiving us during our times of repentance.  The hands of God, continually reaching out to touch us, and re-make us as a new creation!

It is appropriate that these two stories were combined as one in the Gospel lesson today - the sick woman reaching out to Jesus, and Jesus reaching out to the dead little girl. Let us go home today with a renewed commitment and a renewed comfort.  The commitment to reach out and touch our Lord.  The comfort to know that He, at the same time, is reaching out to touch us and to heal us.