The last of the subject of integrating hearing and seeing. The notion of touch is brought to the first two senses:
31. It was only in this way, by taking flesh, by sharing our humanity, that the knowledge proper to love could come to full fruition. For the light of love is born when our hearts are touched and we open ourselves to the interior presence of the beloved, who enables us to recognize his mystery. Thus we can understand why, together with hearing and seeing, Saint John can speak of faith as touch, as he says in his First Letter: “What we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life” (1 Jn 1:1). By his taking flesh and coming among us, Jesus has touched us, and through the sacraments he continues to touch us even today; transforming our hearts, he unceasingly enables us to acknowledge and acclaim him as the Son of God. In faith, we can touch him and receive the power of his grace. Saint Augustine, commenting on the account of the woman suffering from hemorrhages who touched Jesus and was cured (cf. Lk 8:45-46), says: “To touch him with our hearts: that is what it means to believe”.[Sermo 229/L (Guelf. 14), 2 (Miscellanea Augustiniana 1, 487/488): "Tangere autem corde, hoc est credere".] The crowd presses in on Jesus, but they do not reach him with the personal touch of faith, which apprehends the mystery that he is the Son who reveals the Father. Only when we are configured to Jesus do we receive the eyes needed to see him.
A few thoughts …
The writer of the epistle may be alluding to his experience as one of the Twelve, as one of those who literally saw and heard Jesus during his public ministry. Seeing and hearing the Lord are by no means impossible today, but for those open to such penetration of the senses–are they disciples, apostles even, as John was?
In the Eucharist, bread and wine are transformed. Thus people experience part of a spiritually transforming experience. The Holy Father speaks of “Jesus … transforming our hearts,” and grace certainly makes that happen. One image is stone to flesh, as suggested by God through the prophet Ezekiel.
The witness of faith stories is that this “personal touch” of Jesus may happen whenever a person is open and prepared to experience it. Perhaps the notion of an all-seeing, all-knowing God, rather scary and intimidating for some, can be replaced with the idea that God will enter our lives when we least expect it, if we are truly prepared for such an eventuality.
And are we?