“That Gospel for this weekend is a rather long one, but really in a sense it’s a double header and usually double headers are longer. It’s a double header because Jesus performs two miracles in the midst of this Gospel- the one for the woman who had suffered for so many years who came up in faith and wanted that cure by touching but the tassel of Christ’s clothing and then of the young woman who had died and yet Jesus raised her back to life. It’s interesting that in both of those there is an act that we all kind of take for granted and that is the act of touching. It said the woman came up and said, ‘If I but touch his cloak I will be cured.’ and Jesus, when he goes into the room of the little girl who had passed, took her by the hand, touched her and raised her up. That idea of touching is so important. It’s one of those senses that we kind of tend to take for granted that sense of touch that we have and yet how important that is. There’s kind of been a dearth of touching during the time of COVID with all of the quarantine. We were afraid to shake hands, afraid to give a hug, afraid to reach out and that really was not just a physical act. There was a human deprivation in that because that lack of touching takes away from our human relationships and so therefore it’s good that we can touch again that we can touch in the sense of being present to another and to be able within proper situations to give that hug that handshake that grasp of the other person. Touching is so very important. It was important for Jesus in the cures that he had there with the woman who touched him and Jesus wanted more than just the physical touch and that’s the reason why he asked, ‘Who touched me with faith?’ and that’s what he says to the father of the young woman. He said, ‘Just have faith. Do not be afraid.’
Miracles in the New Testament really are physical acts, but they all point to the deeper reality of the healing of sin, the bringing about of forgiveness, and that promise of eternal life, conquest over sin and death through the resurrection of the Lord Jesus that we are reminded of in the second reading today and so that idea of touching Christ and allowing Christ to touch us is so very important. It’s a very important part of our spiritual life in order to reach out to touch Jesus, to become not just face to face, but to be heart to heart with Christ to allow our heart to be touched by his heart and his heart to be touched by ours. That’s the invitation we have in faith is to truly know that the power of Christ is one that brings about transformation that brings about new life and that we approach Jesus so very often in the sacrament of reconciliation where Jesus reaches out to touch us with that gift of the Holy Spirit in forgiveness and the Eucharist that we have is always one of touching. Eucharist is about touching. We experience Christ. Christ is placed on our tongue. Christ becomes one with us. We touch him and he touches us not with physical healing, but with a spiritual transformation that we become that new person in Christ that we are truly made whole by being touched with Christ heart to heart. Every Eucharist that we experience is an invitation to deeper relationship that where we come in faith before the Lord to allow him to touch us with the gift of his redeeming grace.
This is my last weekend here in the parish and I just want to say thank you for touching me. You have touched me so beautifully in so many different ways. One of the things about being a pastor is first of all, you know you never please everyone. That’s impossible. I was taught that by Msgr. Koch who was my pastor and Msgr. Koch was considered tough as nails, but I remember him saying one time, ‘You know Tom you can’t please everybody. Just think of Jesus, he was God and they crucified him.’ That was my introduction when I was a seminarian! So, I know there’s probably been people that I have offended. I’ve never deliberately offended anyone, but if I have, I apologize and ask your touch of forgiveness for me, but mainly I want to say thank you. Thank you for allowing me to be pastor here. Thank you for the ways in which you’ve enriched my life. One of the things I don’t think you as laity realize is that we as priests are challenged in our spirituality through you. You are the ones who call me to be a better priest. You are the ones who call me to be a better disciple of Jesus and you have done that in so many beautiful ways through the example of your life, through the wonderful ways in which you have lived out your faith. This is a tremendous parish community because of each and every one of you and your generosity and your commitment and it’s been a tremendous privilege for me to be able to serve here in this parish and I know that Fr. Gary will have a wonderful welcome here and that he will do a phenomenal job of continuing to be with you hopefully touching you with his priesthood, with his grace, with his grace, but also I know you will enrich him as well as you have enriched me and so I’m very grateful and know that you are certainly in my thoughts and prayers. It was my decision to use this as a time of retirement. It was not the Archbishop who asked me to retire. It was my decision, my choice of saying, ‘This is the time.’ but I have been so greatly enriched by the tremendous love you have shown and I thank you for that. Thank you for touching me both with your own human love and with the love of Christ Jesus.”