The Spirit of Love in Touch.
“Would you like for me to pray with you?” I asked the elderly person I was visiting in the hospital. Without hesitation, “Yes, I would like that.” “Is it okay if I hold your hand as we pray?” “Please,” they smiled. I have no idea what I actually said in my prayer. However, after my “Amen” I heard the words softly offered, “I felt the Spirit through your hands as we prayed.” And as hesitant as I am to acknowledge it, I have come over the years to understand that they were right. I have often felt something too, when praying at the bedside with people facing the end of the life through either age or trauma.
The Spirit of God has expression in and through our touch. How we touch one another, when we touch, who we touch evidences our relationship, or lack thereof, to the Spirit of the Living God. In the Pentateuch, the Law was practised by the people of Israel as a way of life. It ordered the boundaries and social structures and the governance prescribing what is holy and profane. Profane— for all practical purposes, is defining “good” and “bad” touch. Though Moses and Joshua had been called by the Lord to the tent of meeting for the transfer of leadership, this week’s text from Deuteronomy states, “Joshua son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom, because Moses had laid his hands on him.”
Christians baptise with touch. We offer the gifts of bread and wine with our touch. We anoint for healing, confirm, and ordain with our touch. Though we must, with preference and compassion, tend with great sensitivity those among us abused by unholy touch and those at risk of being hurt, the Church cannot deny the gift of the Spirit that can be revealed through our touch. God’s breath gives our bodies life, and Christ embraced our flesh. Let our touch testify to the Spirit of Truth at work in us and in the world.
Touch also signifies love and connection. Love begets love. It seems the more love you give, the more love you have to give. Love by loving. The way of loving God and neighbour is by loving God in neighbour and loving neighbour in the love of God. And loving the most difficult neighbour at that. “For if you love those who love you, what reward have you?”
John of the Cross says that in the end we shall be judged by love alone. Unfortunately, or fortunately, the world offers plenty of opportunity for the challenges of love. One only need to consider the behaviour of our brothers and sisters in the world let alone our leaders to see love, true love, the love of our God is desperately needed. The treatment by one gender to the other needs a lot of love and work as witnessed recently by those in whom we have put trust. Many of our politicians sadly do not show love and compassion to others in their day to day lives. Yet, we are called by God to respond to these people with love.
We hear in our scriptures, but here is “the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” The very foundation of that world is love. And, every step toward loving builds up the foundation of the kingdom of love. Often, I express that love of God deeply with touch. I share the love of God with contact. Sometimes I do so unaware of how that touch affects the other person, how it moves them, and they feel supported and loved. I hope and pray that my love is positive and of God. I hope and pray my touch is not negative in consequence but shows the love of our God. Without grounding in that love, I am nothing but not only that I disrespect the other. But with love . . .