Thought for the week, 2nd August; Touch
This week, one of the chaplains at my place of work (Aston University), led a meditation on a story of how Jesus healed a man from leprosy. In this story, Jesus reaches out and touches the leper. This was a remarkable act; touching a leper would have exposed Jesus to risk of getting the disease. The leper would have been considered both physically and ritually unclean; by his actions, Jesus himself would also have made himself unclean. The story has particular resonance for this time of Covid, particularly with the unwelcome but necessary slowing of the release from lockdown announced over the last couple of days. It would have been the equivalent of Jesus kissing a patient with Covid. Nor was this an isolated event; we are told in the Gospels of other occasions where Jesus defied both convention and common sense to touch those he to whom he was ministering.
We are not Jesus; the one lesson that we most certainly should not draw from this is that we ought to abandon social distancing and rules on contact! To do that would be an act of self-importance not service. But there are two things that are worth our attention. Firstly, these stories remind us of the power of human touch. Touch can of course be unwelcome or threatening, but in the right context, it is a very powerful and intimate means of showing support. In this current period, its absence may remind us just how much we miss it. But what we cannot do, God does. This story reminds us that God reaches out and embraces all of humanity, whatever form their and our leprosy takes. Thanks be to God.