Wisdom 1:13-15, 2:23-24
Psalm 30:2, 4, 5-6, 11, 12, 13
Second Corinthians 8:7, 9, 13-15
Mark 5:21-43 or 5:21-24, 35-43
Courage and Faith
When the gospel is proclaimed Sunday the presider has a choice of a longer or shorter version of the reading. I am using the longer version because it includes the story of the woman with a hemorrhage. Too frequently stories of women are not included in the Sunday readings.
In today’s gospel, Jesus is approached by one of the synagogue officials, named Jairus, who came forward, fell at his feet and pleaded earnestly with him, saying, “My daughter is at the point of death. Please, come lay your hands on her that she may get well and live.” Jesus immediate starts off for Jairus’ home but stops suddenly when he feels someone touching him. The story of the woman with a hemorrhage is inserted before Jesus continues to the sick girl.
There was a woman afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve years. 26 She had suffered greatly at the hands of many doctors and had spent all that she had. Yet she was not helped but only grew worse. 27 She had heard about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak. 28 She said, “If I but touch his clothes, I shall be cured.” 29 Immediately her flow of blood dried up. She felt in her body that she was healed of her affliction. 30 Jesus, aware at once that power had gone out from him, turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who has touched my clothes?” 31 But his disciples said to Jesus, “You see how the crowd is pressing upon you, and yet you ask, ‘Who touched me?’” 32 And he looked around to see who had done it. 33 The woman, realizing what had happened to her, approached in fear and trembling. She fell down before Jesus and told him the whole truth. 34 He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be cured of your affliction.”
When reading this story, most people have an extraordinary compassion for this woman – not only because of her physical condition but also because she experiences social exclusion and emotional suffering as well. In a Jewish context, her constant bleeding places this woman in a state of perpetual cultic impurity that not only prevents her from participating in all religious activities, but also ritually taints anyone who touches her, lays on a bed in which she sleeps, or sits on a chair she vacates. She is automatically considered unclean, even sinful, and is separated from her family and community. This was one courageous woman. Consider 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 as well. And just think of the audacity to intentionally get close to Jesus.
We know from the story that the woman was able to reach Jesus and touch his garment. As she was healed, Jesus acknowledged that power went out of him but he seemed to take no active part in her healing until it was completed, confirming the truth of his later statement that it was her faith that made her well.
This is one of the most powerful healing stories in all of scripture. It portrays a woman whose faith and courage initiate her healing. Here is a woman who suffers significantly but who, at the same time, never gives up. She is a woman who is persistent, creative and faith-filled, to mention nothing of possessing immense courage.
All of us are in need of healing in some form or other. Like the Woman with a Hemorrhage we, too, have to place our faith in Jesus, in a God who has power to heal us when we are in need. Sometimes we have to take risks for this healing to occur. We have to leave behind old habits, persons, or places that cause us to be less than our best selves. Sometimes we have to go into new spaces or activities to participate in our responsibility for the human family and the world around us. Sometimes we have to change our schedules in order to take time for reflection and prayer, time which most often results in a change in our life style. The Woman with a Hemorrhage took a huge risk to change her life. This can be a frightening experience but it can also be an effort that brings inner peace and holistic healing to our lives. Weigh the cost of inner peace or inner dis-ease. The choice is ours just as it was the choice of the Woman with a Hemorrhage.
What kind of “touch” do you need from Jesus (or from some other person) in your life? How do you experience God’s power and healing in your life?
How and when do you take time for prayer and reflection? In what ways does introspection help you to grow? When have you been generous enough with your time for yourself?