"In about 1996 I took a group of teenagers on what was called a pilgrimage of pain and hope. Over a three day period we went to places where people were bringing hope into situations of pain and brokenness.
One of the places we went to was a children's home run by the Methodist Church. The matron explained to us the kind of work they do and the kind of children they seek to help.
One story was particularly moving. She told how a little baby had been brought to the home, having been found abandoned by her mother. By the time the little girl was brought to the children's home, she was in a very poor state. Immediately a doctor was called to attend to the baby. He did whatever he could, but said that the little child was not in a good state at all and probably wouldn't make the night. It looked as if her little spark of life was ebbing away.
Wanting to give the little girl whatever love they could show to her in her last remaining hours a decision was made that staff would take it in turns to hold the little one through the long hours of the night that lay ahead. Throughout the night, the baby was held. Held and loved.
In the morning when the doctor arrived again to look at the baby, he was amazed not only that she was alive, but also at the turn-around in the baby's condition. All her vital signs were looking significantly better than the night before. He could only conclude that the love and the warmth she had received from staff during the night had activated within the little girl a will to live that seemed to have been lost in the hours before when she lay alone and abandoned by her mother. The doctor could only explain the turn-around in her condition through to the power of love and the power of human touch."
As we read through the Gospel stories, we get a sense of how important and how healing touch was in the ministry of Jesus. In the passage last week, with a touch of his hand, Jesus heals Peter's mother-in-law. In our passage on Sunday, Jesus reaches out and touches a leper. This was a profound moment because it is unlikely that this leper had received human touch from the first time it became apparent that he had a skin disease.
As Jesus reaches out to touch the man with leprosy, we see two healings happening simultaneously. Firstly we see the outward healing as the man is healed physically. The text reads: “In that moment, the leprosy left him, and he was healed”.
Secondly, in reaching out to touch a person who possibly hadn't been touched in years, Jesus brings healing to him in his heart and spirit too.
Mother Teresa was once quoted as saying:
“The greatest disease in the West today is not TB or leprosy; it is being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for. We can cure physical diseases with medicine, but the only cure for loneliness, despair, and hopelessness are willing hands and hearts ready to reach out in love.”
May God's love so touch and heal us that we may have willing hands and hearts ready to reach out to those who need our love.