I remember that in grade school they taught us that the skin is the largest and the most extensive organ that the human organism has. Equipped with millions—if not billions—of sensors, it is receptive to the slightest touch and pressure, news of which travels quickly to the brain, allowing the body to respond to the sensation that it has received. This simple fact led me to reflect on the fact of how humans beings (though this isn’t reserved to the human organism of course) where made to be receptive to the touch of others. The person was made to be touched, and upon this innate ability to be receptive depends the life (or death) of the person. Man was made to touch and be touched, and he does this in varied ways. But ultimately, he was made in order to be touched by the God who created him. His life and his growth depend on how he responds to this divine touch. If he chooses to shy away from God, the human spirit with its thirst for divine love shrivels up and dies; if he opens up to the grace of God, the more he lives and grows.
The First Reading relays to us a passage from the book of the prophet Isaiah. It relates the coming of the Lord, his visit among his people. The presence and the touch of the Lord is life-giving. The images that the prophet uses suggests the effects that the grace of God have in man: eyes and ears are opened to see and to hear the Good News of God’s salvation, the lame are given the strength in order to walk, and to the dumb the power of speech (and of song) is bestowed. The presence of God in man through grace bears fruit in wholeness of life. This is the effect of grace in the life of man, sanctifying grace that is nothing less than the divine life of God in us, restoring life that has been destroyed by the darkness of sin, and further strengthening it in order to reject sin and live according to His law.
This presence of the Lord among his people in order to grant them salvation is fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ. The Lord had assumed our own humanity, and living among us as man, announced this salvation and fulfilled this Good News of salvation in his own person. In the Gospel we see Jesus performing another miracle, one among the many that he had made in his ministry. In the episode of the deaf man’s hearing being restored to him, we see the fulfillment of the prophecies of the Old Testament: God has come and visited his people, and has blessed them with good things. “He has done all things well”, the people say after having witnessed the wonders that Jesus made among them. These were merely signs that pointed to the reality of God’s presence among men, a presence that in itself is a sign of salvation. God saves, and he saves in the person of Jesus Christ.
We allow this salvation to enter into our lives when we allow ourselves to be touched by God. We allow God to touch us when we open our ears to receive his Gospel. Receiving the Gospel and believing in it does not merely require faith. One also needs to be obedient to the Word that has been received.
More than ever, we are called to receive the Gospel and the salvation that it contains with open ears, that is to say, not only believing in it, but also obeying it in its entirety. Applying the Gospel in our life means allowing it to influence our moral decisions, so that our thoughts, words and action, and also our intentions (or the reasons for our actions) will always be in sync with the saving message of Christ, interpreted and taught to us by the magisterium of the Church.
This acceptance of the Gospel, living according to God’s law of love makes us very sensitive about living a life of charity and solidarity, most especially with the poor. In the Second Reading, the letter of the Apostle James turns our attention to one thing that was already present even in the early Church: the scandalous discrimination between the rich and the needy poor. If God has been good to us, by touching us with his grace, by sharing us his very own divine life, by granting us the gift of his mercy, then we too must show the same mercy and goodness to our needy brothers and sisters. Nowadays, our society is divided in a debate that is based on how to uplift the poor and the materially needy in their plight. Our leaders, and we ourselves see the demand to do something. The panorama of suffering that we see in the society that we live in, in which those who have less have lesser every passing day, and the rich get richer, is due to the fact that as Christians, we have failed in our witness to the Gospel of Christ. What a scandal, what a big scandal this is!
It is not that Christianity has failed, nor that Christ is at fault, or that the Church is to blame, but it is rather us, individual Christians who are at fault. We have tied our hands, we have closed our ears, and we have hardened our hearts.
The Gospel does not ask us to present a surefire solution to the problem of poverty. It is a problem to great for us to solve, one that will always be part of our earthly condition. Rather, it asks us not to be deaf to the plight of the needy. There is no magic and standard formula on how to do this; we need to look into our hearts, examine our personal condition, and the particular circumstances in which we live and move, in order to be able to respond well to the call of Christ who waits for us in the guise of the needy. In order to be able to help the poor in an authentic way, we need to discern and act. In a world that has been scandalized by the life of privileged that many Christians have lived, we are called to witness to the love of God that extends itself to all men, whether rich or poor.
May our reflection on the Word of God make us open to receive the touch of God in Jesus Christ, and allow us to be responsive to the call to live according to the charity of God, most especially to the most needy who are nearest to us. May our faith and love move us not to think only of ourselves, but also makes us sensitive to the needs of others, both bodily and spiritual, so that in imitation of Mary our Mother (whose birth and special vocation we have celebrated yesterday) and of all the saints, we may be persons through which God continues to touch and heal the world. AMEN.