July 1, 2018
Fr. Joseph A. Jacobi
Who is this woman who touches Jesus and calls forth from him healing power? She is a nameless woman. She is a bleeding woman, a bleeding nameless woman. She is also broke. She is a broke, bleeding, nameless woman. In the view of the culture of her time, she is also one of the untouchables because of her illness.
She is defined by those around her by her sickness, and by how it has not only drained her body but also drained all of her savings—she has nothing left to live on.
But Jesus, when he addresses her, reveals that he knows she is something much more than an impoverished woman with a chronic illness. She is a daughter of God. Jesus says as much: “Daughter, your faith has saved you.” She knows and he knows that she has never been an unclean woman with uncontrolled bleeding. Rather, she is a daughter of God who is suffering. She held onto this spiritual identity, and that deeper identity gives her courage to reach for God’s love manifested in Jesus. God’s love is for God’s children, and she knows she is one of God’s children, no matter how difficult her life might be . That is her faith.
Which is why her touch is different than the touch of others in the pressing crowd who are jostling against Jesus. There are many whose skin rubs against Jesus’ skin in that crows, but only one who touches him with faith. She does not even feel the need to ask him—she knows, in loving trust, all is needed is to be connected to him, even in the slightest way.
And the healing that comes from the love of God flowing into her through Christ Jesus is more than just physical. She can go in peace and enter back into community. Since she was spiritually touched by God, she can physically touch and be touched by others. These two stories of two women who touch and are touched by Jesus are about much more than physical healing. They are stories of salvation! Jesus is not a wonder-worker, he is not some kind of magical healer. He is the Savior of the World who comes to heal the broken relationship between humankind and God and the broken relationships among people. He comes to restore those relationships, to make whole what seemed to be irreparable broken.
The bleeding woman now healed after 12 years of chronic illness is restored to her family and to her community. She is no longer avoided as one “unclean”, as one who cannot be touched for fear of catching her disease, of being contaminated by her blood.
The 12 year old girl is restored to her family. Her father and mother, who thought they had lost her forever to the darkness of death, discover by the light of God’s love shining through Jesus, that her future and theirs is not destroyed. They have all—father and mother and 12 year old daughter—been given new life.
That is why these two stories are about faith, about people who trust in God’s love manifest in Jesus and open their lives to that love. These two stories reveal what happens in the lives of those who trust in God, in spite of every reason not to trust. The bleeding woman’s faith is very evident because she knows all she has to do is touch Jesus. But so is the father’s faith, for as he receives news of his daughter’s death, at that very moment Jesus calls him to trust in the power of Jesus’ love: “Do not be afraid, just have faith.” In the face of the death of his dear daughter, in the midst of the din of the wailing and weeping, he is invited to trust in the one whose love is more powerful than death.
In Biblical thought, God owns blood, because God is the author of life, and blood the source of life. So, God’s love working through Jesus, has stopped the 12-year flow of blood in the hemorrhaging woman and started the flow of blood in the 12 year old girl. The heart of God has been revealed in the actions of Jesus, who by his Sacred Heart reveals how much God loves suffering humankind.
For when the older woman touched him, at that moment he becomes unclean. He trades places with her. He brings her into relationship with God, and now he will be the one who is cast out and the one who bleeds. Then, he touches the 12-year old who is dead and trades places with her as well. Now he is the one who will die so that she can live.
You see the mystery of salvation revealed here. We will be saved when we have been touched by Jesus Christ: touched by his love, touched by his grace, and touched by his word.
St. Paul says it this way:
“Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.”
Can we trust in the love God has for us in Christ Jesus? Can we do so even in the face of illness or death, struggle or trial?
In just a short while, we will reach out in confident trust to touch and be touched by the Body of Christ. In doing so, the isolation we suffer from, the loneliness which drains joy of out of our life, will be healed. Because we will come into intimate communion with God and with one another.
And we will remember who we are: God’s beloved children.