Sunday Gospel extract - Mark 5, 25-29:
Now there was a woman who had been suffering from haemorrhages for twelve years. She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, for she said, “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.” Immediately her haemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease.
We may miss the shock factor in both stories today. Given the strict rules surrounding ritual purity, it was unprecedented that a woman with some kind of gynaecological complaint should actually touch a man; in this case, Jesus. Conversely, Jesus touched a corpse, also strictly forbidden and entailing ritual impurity.
The woman suffering from the haemorrhage would have experienced isolation from the community because of this.
Due to her shame she wasn’t able to approach Jesus openly but rather just touch the hem of his cloak. This was enough to stop the bleeding.
Many of us can experience shame, or other emotions (anger), and we feel we can’t approach or get too close to Jesus. Some people find it difficult to come into the main body of the church and prefer to remain in the vestibule during mass. That’s good enough. We can’t judge. If we move, even tentatively, in the Lord’s direction then he can work miracles with us. For the many who don’t have faith, or simply don’t come to church, then we - who receive Holy Communion - become the hem of the cloak of the church, which they can touch by knowing us.
Jesus wanted to do more than just stop her bleeding. He wanted give her the peace that only he can give. So he gently challenged her to come out of the crowd and reveal herself to him. It was a call to trust that he would give her life and love without judgement.
Fr Gianni Notarianni O.S.A.