Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The power of touch

The first reading today includes one of the most powerful gestures in our tradition the laying on of hands. I we look at our sacraments we see that in each case there is some form of touch, the anointing at baptism and the anointing of the sick, the laying on of hands in confirmation and orders, the joining of hands in marriage, the distribution of communion (never serve yourself). Even when you hear someone's confession who is behind a screen, the rite calls for the priest to extend a hand toward them in the absolution prayer.

As we become more obsessed with germs, boundaries and personal space, our culture seems to be moving away from personal contact. At the same time medical science demonstrates that from the time we are born we need contact to develop properly.

In his Book On Heaven and Earth Pope Francis wrote that in caring for the poor our commitment must be "cuerpo a cuerpo" (body to body). When someone says they gave to the beggar on the street his question is did you look at them, did you touch them? As he points out too often we can throw money, without really having contact with the person. This is not the Christian way.