The Power of Touch
13th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B)

Jeremiah R. Grosse
Reproduced with Permission

Our Gospel reading this morning presents us with a story within a story. Jesus is approached by Jairus, a synagogue official, and while He is on His way to help Jairus' daughter, who is dying, a woman reaches out from the crowd and touches Jesus' garment.

The crowd is pressing against Jesus on every side and He asks, "Who touched me?" Is Jesus serious? What can possibly be so important about the fact that someone touched Him? He has spent all His entirely earthly ministry healing to blind and the lame. People have been touching Him wherever He has gone and yet now He asks, "Who touched Me?"

A number of years ago a group of scientists did an experiment involving eight baby chimpanzees. Four of these baby chimpanzees were left on their own. They were fed at the proper time; however, none of them were ever picked up or held. As the experiment progressed the scientists examined how this lack of personal contact impacted the development of these monkeys. They found that by the age of three these monkeys had developed difficulty interacting with other monkeys and they did not interact well with the scientists either. This was a very curious development for those who were conducting the experiments.

Was Jesus serious about when He asked, "Who touched Me?" He certain was. This is the only time in the entire New Testament where Jesus tells His disciples that power had gone out of Him when He was touched.

Jesus had made paste with spittle and clay and wiped it on the blind man's eyes to heal Him, but He make no reference to power going out of Him. Jesus was anointed on his feet by Mary and she wiped His feet with her hair, but He makes no mention of power going out of Him. Jesus raises the son of the widow of Naim to life again and He makes no mention of power going out of Him.

It was the fact that this woman approached Him with faith and touched Him in the sure knowledge that doing so would bring her a cure which lead to power going out of Jesus. This woman does not say, if I run up to Jesus and tell Him what I having to deal with He will help me. No, she says, "If I but touch the hem of His garment I will be cured." She reaches out in faith to the One who is the very source of Life itself and touches His clothes as He passes by and immediately the flow of blood which had plagued her for twelve years and cost her every cent that she had, dried up. There is something life giving about the power of touch.

In that experiment I mentioned earlier, the four remaining monkeys were placed in a room with a mechanical mother monkey. Whenever the chimp needed to feel close contact, he or she would run to the mechanical monkey. This machine was programmed to reach its arms around the baby and simulate a hug. They placed a heating element inside the machine so that it would simulate body heat.

After three years the scientists found that these four monkeys had no difficulty interacting with other monkeys and would interact with the scientists as well. The conclusion was that they had developed into primates with normal emotional responses.

If this experiment can work on chimpanzees imagine what the results would be in the test subjects were human? All of us need to experience touch from time-to-time. Whether it is in the form of a hug, a hand on our shoulder, or having our hand held when we are experiencing a personal difficulty, we all need to be touched at certain times.

The Lord Jesus touches us through our brothers and sisters. He touches us through the sacraments and He touches us in a deeply personal way by sending us the Holy Spirit to sustain us on our earthly journey.

When we reach out to God in faith and believe that He will be there for us, it is at those times when God will cry out once again, "Who touched Me?" St. Paul tells us that Christ is the power of God.When we reach out to a brother or sister in need we give flesh to the power of God at work in their lives.

While we do not serve our brothers and sisters for any earthly reward or praise, the fact is that the very act of reaching out to them in faith will transform our lives as well. Something as simple as a touch can change a person's life for the better forever.