Voce mea ad Dominum

Random thoughts from an amateur theologist.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Tangible grace

Whatever villages or towns or countryside he entered, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and begged him that they might touch only the tassel on his cloak; and as many as touched it were healed. - Mark 6:56

The above verse from St. Mark's gospel is pretty much self-explanatory. Wherever Jesus went, crowds of people would recognize him and would bring him their sick to be healed. Pope John Paul II used to attract crowds as well, and many people lamented the fact that he was like a rock star because wherever he went, stadiums were filled to capacity. I suppose there are people who want the Pope to be holed up in the Vatican out of sight, much the same way that the Pharisees wanted Jesus to be out of sight.

But on to other things. The people who were brought to Jesus in order to be healed only had to so much as touch his tassel in order for their afflictions to be cured. Of course, it wasn't the tassel that did the healing but their faith in Christ, but it is interesting that this passage of the gospel doesn't say, "Many people were brought to Jesus, and because they had faith alone they were healed." No, it says that the people wanted to touch the tassel and if they did, they were cured. It was necessary for their faith to be made manifest in the touching of Jesus' tassel in order for the healing to take place. It was necessary to put that faith into action in order for it to be realized.

We Catholics get a bit of grief from people who say that faith alone is necessary for salvation, for we believe that salvation can only come about through faith working in love. As St. James says in his letter, "You now see that it is by deeds, and not only by believing, that someone is justified...As a body without a spirit is dead, so is faith without deeds." (James 2:24,26) The above passage from St. Mark's gospel reveals just such a situation, for the faith of the sick did not result in healing until they touched the tassel of the Master; it had to be put into action to bear fruit. With contemplation we come to realize that the faith and the act are as inseperable as the three persons of the Blessed Trinity.

God knows that we are people who are bound to our five senses. God communicates spiritual reality to us through our own physical reality. Therefore, in order to fully experience God's grace it is necessary for us to experience it through tangible signs. These tangible signs are not magical visions or warm and fuzzy feelings, on the contrary, they are simple gifts. And God uses exceptionally common things in order to reveal to us that we have been graced: water, bread, wine, oil. We can feel, taste, see, smell and hear these physical realities, and through the eyes of faith we can know that something miraculous has occurred, that God's grace, his Divine love has been given to us. While the fact that God's grace is given to us is a miracle in and of itself, it is also miraculous that such a powerful thing can be given to us under the sign of something which seems so insignificant.

St. Paul Miki, you and your companions who were martyred by crucifixion, pray for us.


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