This Gospel reports two stories of healing. One story tells us about a father’s great love for his dying daughter. The other story, the one I have chosen to focus on, tells us about a desperate woman who risks much in a courageous act of faith to seek healing from Jesus. This woman has lost everything to find a cure to a condition that has separated her from the community. We women can commiserate with her. We may have memories of “those days” or know someone who understood why some referred to a woman’s “gift of God” as “the curse of Eve.”
This woman’s is a true story, not one of Jesus parables. This woman had suffered from bleeding for 12 long years. Whether this hemorrhaging was constant or irregular, it caused the woman much suffering, and with the loss of blood much weakness as well. She also suffered a great deal at the hands of the many doctors she consulted for a cure. Not only didn’t she get better, she actually got worse. In addition, she didn’t have good health insurance so now she was broke and wasn’t eligible for food stamps.
We need to realize, too, that this woman would have been quite isolated: lonely, shunned and shamefully treated because she was considered ceremonially unclean under the Law of Moses. She could never perform the rituals that would have reconnected her with society.
What a suffering! Broke. Required to live as unclean, in isolation and shame. She had very little hope for a better future.
I have to tell you, earlier in the week I had gotten this far in putting thoughts on paper when God literally dropped a reflection on this Scriptural episode into my lap … the book I’m reading here in chapel by Basil Pennington, fell open to a chapter entitled “Who Touched Me.” Here is an adapted summary of Pennington’s reflection.
Jesus was setting out for the house of Jariaus where he had promised to see the desperate man’s daughter. He and his apostles are being knocked about from every side. Suddenly Jesus stops and asks: “Who touched me?”
Peter in his usual obtuse way responds: How can you ask, who touched me? Everyone is touching us. Everybody is pushing us about.
On our part (says Pennington) The increase of media and people contact – the over-scheduled day, the relentless demands on our time – almost necessarily means a decrease in spiritual contact, unless all our contact is grounded in contemplation and the operation of the gifts of the Spirit that are set free to work in our lives by contemplative prayer.
We do not need to go out and about to find meaning. It is all here within. And when we go out, we find the same Reality. Whether within or without, it fills us with presence, joy, and completeness. Grounded in prayer, we can truly touch the lives of others and be touched by them. (Basil Pennington)
So, it seems to me, the final fact in the woman’s story – remember it’s a true story – is Jesus’ affirmation of her faith and daring. Jesus knew she had touched him and his power had healed her. The woman knew what had happened. The power of the miracle dropped her to her knees. The response of Jesus is so encouraging. He calls her “daughter” affirming that she is very precious to him. He reminds her: your faith has healed you.” Many others that day touched Jesus, jostled him, shoved him but only this one woman touched Jesus with faith. Finally Jesus tells her: Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”
What incident in your life brought you to your knees knowing that you were healed … and more than that, assured that you are loved?
~Reflection by Sister Roberta Bailey, OSB, Prioress
First Reading Wisdom 1:13-15; 2:23-24 Second Reading 2 Corinthians 8:7,9,13-15
Gospel Mark 5:21-43 ( shorter form, Mark 5:21-24,35b-43)