In this Sunday’s Gospel we have one of Jesus’ healing miracles. It’s REAL, it’s not one of Jesus parables. It concludes with Jesus insisting that the on-lookers tell no one. But, doesn’t it seem to you that it would be impossible to obey? To hide what some refer to as “a messianic secret”?
Have you ever experienced the desperate feeling of the hemorrhagic woman – or known someone who did, or does? The feeling like the bucket of life has a hole in it? That it leaks faster than you (or the person you are thinking of) can fill it? No matter what you do, how hard you work, where you go, what you try, you just can’t fill it up. Work, leisure activities, friends, family, community and even prayer somehow leave you feeling empty, restless, and searching. You can’t seem to collect enough in your bucket. The outpouring is greater than the inflow. You are left drained – tired and weak, frustrated and hopeless, angry and resentful, sorrowful and grieving, full of fear that you will never be as fulfilled as you figured you would be by the age you are now. If you know what that’s like, perhaps you know how the hemorrhaging woman felt.
In the Gospel, we don’t know her name. We don’t know where she came from. She’s just another face in the crowd. What we do know is that she is sick, desperate, and in need. She has been bleeding for 12 years. That’s 4,380 days. In all that time no one has been able to help her. She’s spent all she had – energy as well as money. She’s only gotten worse. Day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year it’s been the same.
This woman’s condition is more than physical. She’s losing more than blood. She’s losing her life: its warmth, vitality, and fruitfulness. That is more than a physical condition – it’s a spiritual matter, too.
At one level this is a story of just one woman. Looked at from another level, it’s our human story. Her story is our story. It’s not only about women. It is as much about men. Drained of life, we go through the motions. We’re alive but not really living. Such people feel disconnected, isolated, and alone.
I suspect the bleeding women spent many of the last 4,380 days thinking, “As soon as.…” This particular day, however, something is different. Something in her has changed, it’s shifted. She has heard about Jesus. She’s heard about his miracles. How he’s cast out demons, healed the sick, calmed the sea.
We don’t know what it is she’s heard about Jesus but it was enough to make her believe in him. She was desperate. She can’t wait any longer for others to fix her life. Today she would not allow fear to discourage her. She’d risk the crowd’s ridicule. She’d literally take matters into her own hands. In her heart she knows, “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.”
Instantly a connection is made and a relationship recognized. Life no longer leaked out of her. No, not now. Life was flowing into her, filling her with confidence and the warm touch of a love recognized. And, Jesus knew that power had flowed out of Him. “Who touched my clothes?” For us, we may need professional help, or a spiritual director, or a close friend to help us through the maze, but Jesus does offer each of us “life without hemorrhaging.” We don’t have to live drained of life. We, too, can walk the path of peace fully alive if we but risk reaching beyond the circumstances of our lives.
As Penelope Wilcock has Jesus saying in her book Into the Heart of Advent: “Someone coming close to me, and touching me, can happen in a church undeniably. But it might not, and it can equally happen anywhere else. If you’re looking for me, sooner or later you’ll find me, because I’ll be looking for you too. We’ll find each other wherever you happen to be” (page 64). These very attributes and characteristics of his life are the garment he wears. And, the garment is gently blown by the breeze of love, flowing out, wavering right in front of us. We just have to reach out to touch. The woman said: “If I but touch his garment, I will be cured.”
When you feel you are living a drained life, call upon this woman in the crowd to intercede for courage to reach out and touch the clothes of Christ. Do whatever it takes to let Jesus transfuse you with his life, love, and power. Touch and be healed and go in peace. [Taken from THIS DAY, 13th Sunday 2015.] I have a plaque in my office that’s a good reminder for moments of uncertainty; moments when our last, and best, choice is to “reach out and touch His garment.” It reads: “Sometimes, you just have to take the leap, and build your wings on the way down.”
~Reflection by Sister Roberta Bailey, OSB, Prioress