Paul F. Morrissey, O.S.A.
Church of Saint Augustine
Wis 1:13-15; 2: 23-24
Ps 30: 2, 4, 5-6, 11, 12, 13
2 Cor 8: 7, 9, 13-15
Mk 5: 21-43 or 5: 21-24, 35b-43
The Gospel this Sunday addresses healing–our need for it, and Jesus as the source of it. Each of us, our families and our churches, our country and our world need healing. There is nothing more evident to us as we live in this moment of time. How can we find this healing?
Every time we participate in the celebration of the Eucharist, we say a prayer right before we come to communion, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.” Yes, my soul needs healing, not just my body. Only say the word, Jesus, and my soul shall be healed. In other words, deep down in my soul, I need to be healed.
In today’s Gospel by the Evangelist Mark, we see Jesus crossing in a boat to the other side of the sea, and a large crowd gathering around him. Do you get the sense that Jesus is possibly trying to dodge some of these crowds? This point is driven home a few moments later. People start coming up to him with problems. Big problems. Flowing blood. Death. He can’t dodge this.
First, a “synagogue official” whose daughter is at the point of death approaches Jesus. “Please,” he begs, “come lay your hands on her that she may get well and live.” Imagine this man’s desperate feelings. Then think of Jesus’ feelings. It is important to let yourself get inside their feelings as well as your own. This will allow the Gospel to “speak” to you more than mentally. It will speak to your body. This “bodily-speaking” is a key to today’s Gospel healing and any healing that comes to you through it to your soul.
Secondly, something “intrudes” on this scene with Jesus and the man, and even “intrudes” on the Gospel as we hear it. (By the way, this portion of the Gospel about a “woman afflicted with hemorrhages” is able to be left out if the priest decides to do so for brevity!) We read that just as Jesus is going off with the man to his house where his daughter is near death, the woman who is suffering from continued hemorrhages for twelve years, came up behind Jesus in the crowd and touched his cloak. “If I but touch his cloak,” she said, “I shall be cured.”
What a pushy woman! Did Jesus think this? Hey, I am on my way to another ministry task. Leave me alone or wait your turn. This intrusion by the pushy woman is actually called out into the open by Jesus: “Who has touched my clothes?” he asked the crowd, “aware at once that power had gone out of him.” His disciples, ever concrete and dense, josh with him, “Are you kidding? You see the crowd pressing you and you ask, ‘Who touched me?’”
Jesus, with a deeper agenda, looked around to see who had done it. The woman–now healed (she felt it in her body, we read)–approached in fear and trembling, then fell down and told him the whole truth. She was afraid, it seems, because she had broken the purity law. She, a woman with a “flow of blood,” was forbidden to touch or be touched by someone, lest they become unclean by this touch. Her uncleanness, which Jesus possibly now contracted himself by her touch (even through his clothes!) was now healed.
Jesus risks embarrassing her by pointing out her breaking of the taboo and calling it faith. “Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be cured of your affliction.”
Rather than just retell the story of the synagogue official and his dying daughter, allow me to ask a question first: Did Jesus learn something from this woman (on a human level)? Upon witnessing her faith, and how power flowed out of his body into her by her desperate touch, did he then feel freer himself to break the similar taboo against touching the dead when he came upon the little girl who was now dead? He says to the synagogue official, “Do not be afraid. Just have faith.” We then read how he entered the room where the deceased girl lay, took her by the hand and said, “Talitha koum,” which means “Little girl, I say to you, arise!” The girl, a child of twelve (the same amount of years the woman was suffering from the hemorrhage), arose immediately and walked around. Jesus told them to give her something to eat. In other words, it wasn’t just some “soul” or “spirit” walking around. And Jesus healed her by breaking the taboo against touching her.
Is there any messages we can take from these encounters for ourselves today?
• First of all, God/Jesus heals us, brings life out of death.
• When people take action to reach out to Jesus from their deep needs, he heals them.
• Sometimes, we notice, these people break a religious and/or societal taboo to “touch” Jesus (And he does the same.)
• He calls this reaching across taboo boundaries faith. “Your faith has saved you,” he says to them and to us.
One last message I would offer to us right now is about the crisis of immigration and boundary rules we are seeking for our country: Rather than simply rely on simplistic slogans such as, “Keep them out!” or “Protect our borders!” (or worse), we need to ask ourselves why are people trying to cross the boundaries into our country? Bloodshed and fear of dying are possibly driving them to do so. Is that any different than the woman and man we meet in today’s Gospel? Or do we think the Gospel is meant to be only spiritual? Or private? Or “back then”? Or non-disturbing and peaceful?
What is our responsibility as Catholic Christians when insistence on “purity laws” is going on at our doorstep? Do we shut ourselves off from healing by despising and caricaturing these suffering people? Is this what you see Jesus do in the Gospels? Do we miss our chance to heal and instead stay safe and secure behind walls? What is your faith in action going to do today? Will you let Jesus take your hand–the dead part of you–and say, “Talitha koum! Little child, arise!” When you do so, give yourself something to eat to seal the deal because “Your faith has saved you.”