TOUCH OF COMPASSION

6th Sunday in Ordinary Time            

            In 1873, a young Belgian priest, named Fr. Damien, arrived in Hawaii. He went in the “living graveyard of Molokai” and worked with the lepers of that island. Inialay niya ang buhay niya sa pakikiisa at paglilingkod sa mga ketongin.

            Each Sunday Fr. Damien would begin his sermon with these words: “You, lepers, know that God loves you.” This went on for years. Until one Sunday, Fr. Damien began his sermon this way: “WE, lepers, know that God loves us.” His solidarity with the lepers was complete that he contacted the disease himself. He died at the age of forty-nine in the service of the poorest and the most abandoned – and totally one with the lepers. Fr. Damien knew that ministering with compassion meant it would become necessary to touch others in their unclean, impure condition. It means touching the untouchable.

            Today’s gospel passage shows Jesus interacting with a leper. He stretches out his hand, he touches the leper, and he speaks with him – saying: “I do will it. Be made clean.” A truly remarkable scene! What moves Jesus to do this? COMPASSION. His actions show his compassion and love for the leper. So profound was Jesus’ compassion that he risked contagion and being made unclean.           

            We have to emphasize that Jesus does not only cure the physical disease of the leper, but more importantly, he heals him of his spiritual illness. Not only will he not be despised and shunned by other people, but he will be able to return to society and live a normal life. Not only has “the curse of God” been removed from him but he will be able to live with dignity as a human being. By making him clean, Jesus heals the physical body and incorporates him into society.

            Compassion allows Jesus to see beyond the physical suffering of the leper into his isolation and loneliness. And so even though it is not necessary for the leper’s healing, Jesus stretches out his hand and touches him. Jesus touches the man who was unclean and impure. To Jesus he is not unclean; he is simply a human soul, a human being, a brother in desperate need. Jesus’ touch is probably the first human touch the leper has experienced in years.

            Jesus’ touch is the touch of compassion – the touch that cleanses, heals, and restores… the touch that manifests God’s healing love. Someone defined compassion as “the pain of love.” Everything Jesus does is rooted in and carried with this compassion – the pain of love. He helps the needy, he feeds the hungry, he cures the sick, he forgives sinners, he comforts those in misery, he warns with stern words the proud and unrepentant, he teaches the people who are like sheep without a shepherd… all this he does because he is moved with compassion. Jesus sees pain, hurt, affliction, sorrow, loss, and “the pain of love” causes him to reach out, to touch, to lift, to help, to heal, to forgive, to transform, to encourage, to challenge.

            Bilang mga alagad ni Kristo, tungkulin natin na ipagpatuloy ang kanyang ministry of healing, ministry of touching people. Ngayong panahon ng pandemya, isang napakalaking hamon sa atin kung paano natin magagampanan ang ganitong ministri. How can we perform this ministry of touching and healing people in a time of social distancing or physical distancing? I want to invite you to bring that question into prayer.

            We are called to continue his ministry of touching and healing people. We are to touch Jesus in the person of the sick and afflicted, the wounded and broken, the rejected and cast off. We are to touch Jesus in them with compassion. We are to touch them to the point of feeling the pain of love.

            We are to touch the lives of people who feel unaccepted and unwanted due to bias, prejudice, discrimination, and intolerance – touch them with our acceptance and affirmation.

            We are to touch the lives of people who are emotionally wounded due to broken relationships, separation, or divorce – touch them with our healing words and gestures.

            We are to touch the lives of people who are fearful and anxious due to financial problems or insecurities about the future – touch them with our faith and hope in God.

            We are to touch the lives of people who are suffering and in misery due to extreme poverty and material deprivation – touch them with our practical charity and generosity.

            We are to touch the lives of people who are rejected and alienated due to a sinful way of life or even just a bad reputation – touch them with our mercy and forgiveness.

            We are to touch the lives of people who have lost their loved ones and are grieving and mourning at this moment – touch them with our compassionate presence.

            This is our task, our mission: to become people of compassion!

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