God's Touch of Compassion

God's Touch of Compassion

Homily – Gospel: Mark 5-21-43

          Today’s gospel, a story within a story, centers on the touch of a hand.  It begins with Jairus asking Jesus to come and “lay his hands” on his daughter who is critically ill.

          On the way, a nameless woman is desperate to be healed.  According to Jewish law, the hemorrhages over 12 years made her unclean.  Any who touched her were also considered unclean.  The same law applied to anything she had touched.  So not only was she suffering physically, but the isolation must have been unbearable.  Having heard of Jesus, she decides to take the risk and touch his cloak.  As she does, she experiences healing.  Then Jesus asks “Who touched me?”  Trembling she kneels down and tells him her story.  Can’t you just imagine Jesus reaching his hand out to help her up as he tells her, “Daughter, your faith has saved you.  Go in peace and be cured of your affliction.”

          As he is speaking to the woman, the message comes that Jairus’ daughter has died.  Disregarding the message, Jesus continues walking and says to the official, “Do not be afraid, just have faith.  We know how the story ends. Jesus takes the hand of the child, and she arises.  He gives her to her parents and says that she should be given something to eat.

          In this account and many in Jesus’ ministry we see the tender compassion of God to those in need, and how often touch is involved.  Everything from letting the children come to him, washing the feet of the apostles and breaking the bread at the Last Supper, to cooking the fish for the apostles after the resurrection and many more show us what compassion is.

          As I reflected on this passage two incidents in my life came to me.

          The first was an experience at the Joyce Rupp presentation on compassion.  At one point before a prayer, Joyce asked us to join hands with the people at our table. I took the hand at my left, and then reached out my hand to the person on the right.  And, to my shock the person on my right became overwhelmingly agitated. I froze. It took me a while to realize that the woman was hypersensitive to touch.  I thought “what a terrible affliction.”  The woman who had brought her to the presentation knew exactly what to do to calm her.  Her tenderness was an example of the gift of compassion in action right in front of me.

          The second was remembering Father Dick Bresnahan giving the sign of peace. He was very deliberate in looking at me, taking my hand in his and then placing his other hand on top of mine.  His tender touch spoke kindness, reverence, connection, and peace – God’s gift of compassion experienced.  What a way to begin the day! 

          As you ponder this Gospel passage today, you might want to think about:

            - the many ways God’s hand reaches out to give you the gift of compassion, like being able to warm your hands as you hold a cup of coffee or tea on bitterly cold day. 

            - the ways others have reached out to you offering a compassionate touch, and a word of comfort or encouragement

             - the variety of ways your hands have or could offer compassion to others and all of creation

           May your day be blessed with tender compassion.

By Sister Ruth Ksycki, OSB



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