40 Shades of Lent, Sunday Week II-A, 08 March 2020
Genesis 12:1-4 +++ 2 Timothy 1:8-10 +++ Matthew 17:1-9
Touch is a very powerful word – literally and figuratively speaking. We say “we are touched” when we are deeply moved by words or music, gestures, acts, and scenes that need not be so spectacular because to touch is about making a connection, a communion of persons.
A touch can be so powerful that when filled with love and sincerity, it can transform the person being touched. Experts say that a touch of about five seconds is worth more than 300 words of encouragement and praise!
And that is why our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God is a certified “touch person” who always reached out to people by physically touching them, embracing them to make them feel his loving presence, his mercy, and most of all, his healing.
Almost all his healings were done by touching the sick when he would lay his hands on them like with the blind Bartimaeus on the street of Jericho.
There were times Jesus held up the hand of the sick to raise them up from their bed like Peter’s mother-in-law and the daughter of Jairus. Sometimes in rare occasions, Jesus healed in the most bizarre ways with his sense of touch like with that deaf in Decapolis.
He (Jesus) put his finger into the man’s ears and, spitting, touched his tongue; then he looked up to heaven and groaned, and said to him, “Ephphatha!” (that is, “Be opened!”).Mark 7:33-34
In Nain, Jesus raised to life the son of a widow by touching the coffin – not the dead – by saying, “Young man, I tell you, arise!” that everyone was amazed, saying “the Lord has visited his people”.
Jesus never missed an occasion without personally touching another person, especially the children like when he caught his disciples driving them away.
It is perhaps one of the most touching story of Jesus touching others when he told his disciples to “let the children come to me for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”, after which he embraced them, laid his hands on them and blessed them.
How blessed were those children must be to be embraced and laid with hands on by Jesus! According to tradition, one of those kids embraced and blessed by Jesus was St. Ignatius of Antioch who became a bishop and martyr in the early Church.
That is the transforming power of the touch by Jesus that children are blessed, the sick are healed by restoring their sight or cleansing their skin of leprosy, forgiving the sinners, giving hope to the poor. His touch is always a part of his proclamation of the good news to the people.
Jesus continues to touch us today in every Mass we celebrate when he first speaks to us in the scriptures, trying to make us feel our “hearts burn inside” like the disciples going home to Emmaus on Easter Sunday; and secondly, when he gives us his Body and Blood to partake in the Holy Eucharist.
Most of all, Jesus continues to literally touch us today through one another in our loving service to one another as a community of his disciples.
But, in this age of social media when every communication is mediated by gadgets and other instruments, this kind of personal communication is something we have all been missing because we have stopped touching Jesus, touching others too.
And this is what the second Sunday of Lent is trying to remind us today in the Transfiguration of Jesus.
Transfiguration of Jesus, communion of God with us
Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them… a bright cloud cast a shadow over them, then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” When the disciples heard this, they fell prostrate and were very much afraid. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and do not be afraid.” And when the disciples raised their eyes, they saw no one else but Jesus alone.Matthew 17:1-2, 5-7
We hear this story of the Transfiguration of Jesus twice every year: the Second Sunday of Lent and the sixth of August for the Feast of the Transfiguration. At this time of the year, the Transfiguration story is heard in relation with the Lord’s coming Passion, Death, and Resurrection.
At his Transfiguration, Jesus made it very clear that his glory and divinity must always be seen in the light of his Cross for it is only with his Cross that he can be correctly recognized as the Christ. It is on the Cross where Jesus truly touches us too in our personhood, in our humanity.
See how the three disciples were seized with fear upon hearing the voice of the Father while a bright cloud cast a vast shadow over them; but, it was right in that “tremendum fascinans” that we also find the intimacy, the closeness of God to us through Jesus Christ when he touched the three disciples.
Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and do not be afraid.” And when the disciples raised their eyes, they saw no one else but Jesus alone.Matthew 17:7
And that is the good news for us all!
God had chosen to be so close to us in his Son Jesus Christ who touches us most not only in glory but most especially in moments of trials and tribulations! It is on the Cross where humanity and the divine truly become one in Jesus, when that personal and loving touch of Jesus becomes transformative and even performative.
This is the reason St. Paul exhorted Timothy to “bear your share of hardship for the gospel with the strength that comes from God” (2Tim.1:8) because oneness with Jesus always starts at the cross!
This is very true with us too when we only come to realize who are our true friends, our BFF’s when they are personally one with us in our trials and tribulations, not only in times we are well and good.
True transformation in Jesus can only happen when we are willing to be one with him, to be in touch with him in his passion and death for it is the only path to his Easter glory of transfiguration.
Touch communication vs. mediated communication
How sad that in this age of modern communications that have shrunk the world into a “global village” with instant communications that instead of growing together we have grown more apart than ever from each other.
We have lost real communications that lead to communion of persons or unity of people because we have become more concerned with the techniques of communication, more of skills and gadgets than of persons.
That is the meaning of media or “mediated communication” where there is always a medium between or among persons like cellphones and gadgets.
No more interpersonal relationships, making us more isolated and alienated, leading to growing problems of loneliness, depression, and suicides.
How frustrating sometimes to attend social functions like dinners and weddings where everyone is more busy and interested with their cellphones than with persons beside them!
Aside from isolation from persons, we have also grown “out of touch” with reality itself when more and more people are retreating into their own small worlds like cocoons with wires attached into their ears while their eyes fixated on screens oblivious to the world around them.
We have become so out of touch with ourselves and with others that more and more we are becoming like porcupines – we have not only stopped getting in touch with others but even hurt others if ever we touch them!
Parents, lovers, couples, even people we trust like priests and religious sometimes hurt us with their touch instead of healing us, comforting us. Nobody would want to go through the Passion of the Cross anymore that we would rather stay on top of the mountain, of everything to be delighted with our perceived power and glory.
So unlike in our first reading where we get the feel and touch of real encounter in persons between God and Abraham. Note how in just four verses the word “bless” used five times by God to Abraham, promising to bless him more if he leaves his kin to follow him to the land he would give him.
In their conversation, we find a very personal and engaging communication, as if God and Abraham were literally in touch with each other, where there is personal contact and communication.
We know this for a fact at how effective and more reliable are personal interactions in communication than mediated ones through phones and email – personal communications always have that feel and touch that enable us to negotiate further and be more fruitful.
This Season of Lent, the Father is asking us to be in touch with him again by listening to the words of his Son Jesus who asks us only one thing: deny yourself, take up your cross and follow him. Let us heed him, touch him, and allow him to touch us again to be healed and transformed.
May you be touched as you touch also others in the most loving way this Sunday throughout the whole week! Amen.