Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Relics: Ex Indumentis

Today we hear the rather lengthy Gospel of the cure of the woman with a hemorrhage (the one who reached out to touch Jesus' clothes to access his healing power) and the raising of the daughter of Jairus. Two startling miracles; both accomplished through a kind of mediation. In the first case, it wasn't even Jesus' own person, it was his garments that communicated his power; in the second, his words: Talitha koum.

In the Acts of the Apostles, we see this sort of thing continue: We may not be surprised at a miracle worked by the laying on of hands, but Peter's shadow brought healing to those it fell on (Acts 5:15), and people used to touch handkerchiefs, or even the corner of an apron, to Paul with the expectation that these objects would somehow mediate Paul's miracle-working presence (Acts 19:12).

I have in my own possession a few similar relics: a scrap of fabric encased in a medal of Blessed James Alberione inscribed "ex indumentis" ("from the clothing"); a rosary given to me by Pope John Paul II; a holy card with a hand-written message signed "M. Alberione" ("M" as in "Maestro"--the title used by Blessed James Alberione, the way we would use "Father").

These third-class relics all represent the person who used or touched them. It's not that they are buzzing with supernatural power on their own. Even Jesus' garments in today's story were not supernaturally radioactive (although it may have seemed that way in the Transfiguration, when his clothes, too, were as white as light). Jesus went out of his way to find the person who had drawn power from him through that touch in order to assure her that it was not his clothing, but her faith that had won the healing she desired. And yet there is a way in which God's power is--at least virtually--present in these material things: since they derive from God's creation, they have a kind of sacramental value from their very origin. When you think about it, our whole sacramental system is based on the assumption that created things can communicate the supernatural: not by their own inherent power, but as instruments, as mediations.

In this Year of Faith, I pray to have the kind of faith that can touch Christ as directly as that woman did when she touched his flowing garments.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

re pbs, how does one go about getting in on it?