One of the unnamed women of scripture is the woman with a hemorrhage. (Mark 5:25-34) She is significant because she was healed of her infirmity by touching Jesus’ garment without asking for healing or Jesus initiating the healing. In fact, he said he felt power go out of him when the actual healing took place. He wants to know who touched him for this to happen.
Most women can empathize with this story because it is about a woman who has very serious problems with menstruation. It had become so bad that she had been hemorrhaging for 12 years. In fact, she had spent all her money on doctors but to no avail. It’s only her personal courage that gives her the cure she has long sought.
I feel extraordinary compassion for this woman – not only because of her physical condition but also because she experienced social exclusion and emotional suffering as well. In her day, the prescriptions surrounding women at the time of their period or during any kind of physical discharge were severe. In a Jewish context, her bleeding placed her in a state of perpetual cultic impurity that would not only have prevented her from participating in religious activities, but would also have infected anyone who touched her, lay on a bed in which she had slept, or sat on a chair she had vacated. She was automatically considered unclean, even sinful, and was to be separated from her family and community. As hard as it would be to be separated from her religious fellowship, she was also prevented from any other form of human contact, including touch. Imagine what it must have been like not to be touched by anyone for 12 years!
Just think of the risk she took to be out in public, in a crowd of people where touching someone else would cause that person to become unclean. Just think of her courage and audacity to intentionally get close enough to Jesus to touch his clothing. If she had been recognized in this process she actually could have faced death at the hands of the religious authorities. This woman acted with great faith and extraordinary courage!
The woman experienced power in her body as she touched Jesus’ clothing. She didn’t need a diagnosis from the many doctors she had spent all her money on to tell her that she had been made well. Her body told her.
Thankfully, women today (at least in the Western Hemisphere) don’t face this kind of cultic separation. There are times, however, when women are still viewed as flawed, of less value than their male counterparts, are seen as second class citizens. It takes immense courage for women to face down this negative view point, to speak up for oneself, to take the lead in various situations. This is doubly true and difficult for women of color. If we believe that everyone is created in the image and likeness of God, there should never be prejudice against any person, male or female, white or person of color. We are all one human family.
In our culture today, we are called to be courageous as we show the world that we are all one family.
What can each of us do to value the life of every person with whom we come in contact?
How can we support others as they strive to live valued lives?