When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret. After the people of that place recognized him, they sent word throughout the region and brought all who were sick to him, and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak, and all who touched it were healed.(Mt. 14:34-36)
Three of the best-known and most popular preachers, not just in the U.S.A. but around the world, are Oral Roberts, Billy Graham and Robert Schuller. Each of them had a God-given charism and powerful appeal that won them unstinted praise and international fame.
It is jocularly said that the three once died and went up to heaven. St. Peter met them at the Pearly Gates and greeted them heartily, “Welcome! I’m truly glad to see you all after your outstanding work as eminent preachers.” Then he began to apologise profusely, “Gentlemen, I’m truly sorry, but your rooms aren’t ready as yet. So would you please wait in heal until you hear from me?” And so, down they went – the three greatest preachers in the world!
A week later, Satan called St. Peter on his hot-line. “Hey, Pete,” he screamed, “will you please get these three guys out of here immediately. Oral Roberts has healed every one. Billy Graham has converted every one. And Robert Schuller has raised enough money to air-condition hell! You’d better be quick, Pete, or else I’ll be out of a job.” For once Satan felt threatened. Incidentally, this was Robert Schuller’s good-humoured way of conveying one very important point, “If you can laugh, then you can love.”
Gloria Estafan is a very popular star in the international galaxy of famous singers. It is reported that her father did return from Vietnam in 1968 totally broken by a degenerative neurological disease. Young as she was, little “Glorita” rose to the challenge and nursed him, while her mother eked out a living as a school-teacher. Sadly, deep down in her heart, she had a premonition that she would encounter a disaster, just like her Dad. And in 1990, her tour bus crashed in a snow-storm. Poor Gloria was rushed to hospital with a broken back. Remembering her disabled father, she feared that she too would become a burden to her mother and family. And so, she decided to tackle her fate with a positive faith, intensive physical care and musical therapy. Within a year she was able to return to the stage and release her new album. And one of her songs aptly summarises and reflects her feelings of triumph and joy:
“Coming out of the dark, I know that love saved me.”
Thereafter, the resolute and optimistic young lady danced her way to total recovery.
Said a jubilant Gloria, “I wanted to prove that anyone can deal with a problem and get beyond it.” Hers was indeed a marvellous recovery –thanks to the miracle of touch!
As is well known, each and every human being is born with the same, mysterious and complex covering – skin. And as is also very well known, the skin of a human being is the most sensitive of all human organs. Physiologists tell us that a piece of skin, the size of a ten-cent coin, contains more than three million cells, a hundred sweat glands, fifty nerve endings and three feet of blood vessels. Like the antenna of a television, our skin picks up messages, communicated by the outside world, especially by people, and transmits them to our brain, thereby evoking positive or negative reactions that can favourably or unfavourably affect the entire human organism.
For instance, much can be learned from a mere hand-shake. It can convey one of the following messages: “I am not so pleased at meeting you”; “I have to be civil and do the right thing, but I don’t see any possibility of us being truly close;” “I am truly delighted at meeting you, and I do hope that, as the evening progresses, we get to know each other better”; “What a happy coincidence! We are meeting after years and have so much ground to cover!”
For a moment, think of Louis Braille, tragically blinded at the early age of three, but who ingeniously devised a system, by which blind individuals can learn to read and even play a musical instrument – thanks to the miracle of touch! In his native town of Coupvray, France, there is a statue of this eminent benefactor, to which the blind from all over the world come to thankfully and affectionately touch the face of their ‘messiah’, who delivered them from the bondage of darkness and the shackles of an irreparable and irreversible handicap. And even as they respectfully and gratefully touch him, their own faces glow with a new light and radiant joy. Such is the miracle of touch!
Then, think of Helen Keller, born both blind and deaf, and yet grew to be a college graduate and the authoress of twelve books. This astounding achievement was solely due to the miracle of touch! Said Helen candidly in a public address, “I lay incarcerated in a dark prison, until my teacher, Anne Sullivan, patiently and devotedly freed me by just the miracle of touch! I only know what I touch with my fingers.”
Not so long ago, a certain Fred Bauer visited a hospital that was well-equipped, ably administered, and efficiently served by a conscientious staff. Strangely, the rate of newborn mortality was rather high. Even otherwise normal and healthy babies had died without any apparent cause. On investigation, it was discovered that the nursery was a short-staffed on the third shift. There used to be an elderly woman, named Dora, who looked after the little infants as though each of them were her very own. An infant had merely to cry, when Mother Dora, as she was affectionately called, would rush to its bedside, pick up the baby, cuddle it for a while, sing a lullaby and put the infant back into its crib. Once, however, Dora retired, no one had been engaged to replace her. In other words, in the absence of this angel of love, there was not only a vacancy, but a void. The little infants actually missed Mother Dora so much that many of them just deteriorated and even died. So the very next day, a notice was put up on the bulletin board: Beginning today, all babies are to be held a minimum of ten minutes each hour. The problem was solved overnight. Not only did the mortality rate decrease markedly, but the infants lived to be more contented and recovered faster – thanks to the miracle of touch!
Fashioned as we are unto the image and likeness of God, each and every one of us is meant by our all-wise Creator to be a channel of God’s immense love. As Jesus himself was a channel of God’s love to humankind, so must we. In other words, the otherwise intangible and invisible love of God can become a palpable and tangible reality only in and through us. For instance, when we reach out to the discouraged and depressed with words of encouragement and good cheer, we are serving as a channel of God’s love and an instrument of healing. Again, when we listen to someone in distress patiently, attentively and sympathetically, offering both understanding and support, we are serving as a channel of God’s love and an instrument of healing. Again, when we visit a sick person, selflessly devoting our time, attention and assistance, we are serving as a channel of God’s love and an instrument of healing. And when we express our solidarity with the bereaved at a funeral or thereafter, we are serving as a channel of God’s love and instrument of healing. In the words of a Swedish proverb: “While joys shared are joys doubled, sorrows shared are sorrows halved.” In a word, as we journey through life, we all will meet with individuals, who will be a lot the better and the happier, if in us they can palpably and tangibly experience God’s love through the miracle of touch.
A guaranteed prescription for an eternal reward here and hereafter, in the words of Christ Jesus, hinges on a twofold commitment: one vertical, the other horizontal – “Love God…and love your neighbour.” Framing that poetically, this is how it would run:
“I have no body now on earth but yours;
no hands, but yours.
Yours are the eyes, through which I wish to see;
the voice through which I wish to speak.
And yours are the hands
with which I wish to reach out to others
with my healing love…
If without me, you can do nothing; without you, I am helpless.
So let your love for God be expressed in and through your compassionate care for one another.”