Jesus the Healer – The Physiotherapist
40 A leper came to him begging him, and kneeling he said to him, ‘If you choose, you can make me clean.’ 41 Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, ‘I do choose. Be made clean!’ 42 Immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. (Mark 1v40-42)
In a world where the borders of medical therapy are circumscribed by the wearing of PPE and the practice of double barrier nursing, touch is one of the therapies that suffers most. Of all of the therapies perhaps the least valued, yet most practiced is that of touch. The absence of touch, at this time of pandemic, is being felt by the whole nation.
Touch is not reserved for the formal realm of the physiotherapist, whose work in aiding convalescence is almost impossible in the midst of a contagion, but is, usually, present in our day to day ministry of bringing healing to each other.
Once medicine has been dispensed, once the Mental Health team have done their work, what helps the sick hold on to their healing most is being held.
Norman Autton wrote a seminal (sadly out of print) book called simply ‘Touch’ in which he pointed out the British aversion to public touching yet showed how vital it was to our health. In it he describes how the majority of the healings of Jesus were not done with mud and spit, or with words of command, but simply with a touch. No demon scourging screaming, no laying hands heavily on another, no liberal splashing of olive oil, just a touch.
Through His incarnation, Jesus becomes the means by which God ‘touches’ the world to heal and redeem it. The wording of one of the Church of England’s Communion prayer describes the touch of Christ with these achingly beautiful words;
He touched untouchables with love and washed the guilty clean.
So much of the ministry of Jesus is centred on the power dynamic that occurs with intentional touching. The incident of the woman with the flow of blood, who had spent her whole substance on being ‘touched’ by doctors, is perhaps the most memorable of them. But there are others when he touches others; reaching out he hand to rescue the sinking Peter, or another touches him; when he gently receives his feet being kissed by the woman with the alabaster jar of ointment.
Would that our touch were that powerful!
Yet in some senses it is.
Touch for Health Care Chaplains occurs in so many places and has a different feel and weight to it wherever it is used.
The friendly handshake or hug when a patient is discharged.
The holding of the hand held out to you when sitting at a bedside.
The embrace shared with someone whose body is shaking with grief so much that it drags tears from your own eyes.
The gift of the gentle stroking of the cheek of a new-born child and praying a blessing as her parents gaze on with pride and wonder.
The centrality of touch to healing is magnified at this time when we are not allowed to touch and, although it may carry a harsh consequence, I understand why people bend and even break the rules to reach out and touch
Touch therapy, of each of the therapies we have looked at, is the only one which demands the presence of another.
We can, and most of us do, administer our own drug therapy.
There are many self-help courses and books to help us improve our Mental Health
But we cannot be our own physiotherapists.
Each of us has itches, physical and emotional, which we cannot scratch.
Left untended they will cripple our lives and even send us crazy.
Met with a gentle healing touch we find ourselves soothed and restored.
With the knots worked out of our bodies and our souls we can stand upright and face life again.
Sadly touch has also been used to abuse.
Some will find any form of touch unwelcome and an invasion of their very self.
So we tread and touch carefully seeking consent, reassuring the frightened, always listening to the Body Language of those we are with that our ministry may only bring wholeness out of brokenness.
Those of us who have the privilege of touching others as they journey towards healing walk on holy ground each time a patient reaches out their hand towards us.
It is, off all the ministries of healing, the most intuitive, the least able to explain, and the most effective in providing not just healing but wholeness.
In some respects we become Christ to them, our touch connecting them to the Body of Christ and helping them look beyond the loneliness of their condition to the community of love we are called to become.
…and, just as Thomas touching the wounds of the Risen Christ helped confirm his faith, our simple caring touch of others brings healing not only of body but also of soul.
We pray for all those who minister using their hands.
The Physiotherapist manipulating muscles
and the Nurses keeping patients comfortable.
Those who supply and fit walking aids and prosthetic limbs.
The radiographers moving people into unnatural and uncomfortable poses to produce the best results.
May their touch always be gentle and soothing.
Comfort them in the pain they feel when they see a patient in pain.
We pray for those who can’t bear to be touched because of physical condition or past abuse.
Heal them Lord and, as we can’t hold their hands, please hold their hearts.
We ask you to bless those who have been denied the final touch of a loved one who had died because the Covid19.
Wipe away their tears and remind them of the promise to meet again in Paradise.
We pray for our own hands.
May they always be hands that care and caress
Hands that carry the burdens of others
Hands that heal and restore.
Prayer for Healers
You sent your blessed Son to be the great physician
of our souls and bodies:
Look upon those who have dedicated their lives
to the ministry of healing body and soul.
Bless and strengthen them in your service;
use their skill for the relief of suffering
and the restoration of health;
and help them ever to remember
that in ministering to others they minister to you;
through the same Jesus Christ our Redeemer
(after Frank Colquhoun)
When washing your hands to disinfect them use this prayer as a reminder of the one whom we are serving and to ensure they are washed for the mandatory length of time.
Christ has no body on earth now but yours,
no hands but yours,
no feet but yours;
yours are the eyes through which he looks
with compassion on the world;
yours are the feet with which he walks to do good;
yours are the hands with which he blesses all the world.”
(St Teresa of Ávila)
These Reflections, ‘Jesus the Healer’ are copyright © Andrew Dotchin 2020 – and may be reproduced without charge on condition that the source is acknowledged