My Dear People,
Today we have a story within a story. While Jesus was on His way to the House of Jairus, He was interrupted by a distressing predicament--a woman afflicted with hemorrhages. Since blood is the seed of life (Lev. 17:11), this woman was experiencing her life draining away, with weakness and fatigue that usually accompanies chronic bleeding. Worse, her discharge left her in a perpetual state of ritual impurity. According to the law of Moses, anything she touches or sits on becomes unclean. Others avoid contact with her since touching her would make them unclean (Lev. 15:27). If she is married, sexual union is forbidden. (Lev. 20:18). Worst of all, she is prohibited from entering the temple to worship with God’s people (Lev. 15:31-33). Mark magnifies her plight by noting that she spent all her financial resources on doctors, whose painful treatments failed to alleviate the condition and only increased her suffering.
But what she had learned about Jesus stirred her to faith, despite all her disappointments over the years. Mark makes us privy to her inner soliloquy: “If I but touch His clothes, I shall be cured!” (literally, “be healed” or “be saved,” as in v.23). Even garments can be vehicles of Jesus’ healing power, if touched in faith (see Mark 6:56; Acts 19:12). The moment she does so she senses she is healed of her affliction.
Jesus, too, senses the flowing forth of His healing power. But He does not want the recipient to slip away with only a physical healing. The fullness of healing, spiritual, as well as physical, occurs only in a personal encounter with Himself. So, He turns to seek out the recipient of His healing power.
Who touched me? The disciples think Jesus’ question is absurd, given the thronging crowds. As on other occasions where He is about to display His sovereign power, they completely miss the point. They even feel obliged to help their Lord gain some common sense and realism (as in 6:35-37; see John 11:12, 39). But their perplexed reaction only reveals how much they still have to learn. What made the woman’s touch unlike that of all the others in the jostling crowd was her faith. She had wanted to touch Jesus’ garment lightly, without attracting any attention to herself. Yet, her touch was more efficacious than all the rest, because through faith it came into contact with the person of Jesus and His healing power. Jesus looked around desiring that she meet His gaze and enter into a relationship with Him.
As soon as the woman realizes Jesus is seeking her out, she is afraid. And no wonder, because by deliberately touching another person she has just breached the rules regarding ritual impurity. But as the leper discovered (1:41), it is impossible to make Jesus unclean; rather, his touch makes the unclean clean. The woman’s fear and trembling expresses not merely timidity but human awe at the mighty deeds of God, as at the calming of the storm (4:41; See Exod. 15:16: Ps. 2:11; Jer. 33). She already knows she has been healed (Mark 5:29), but perhaps at a deeper level now, she realizes what has happened to her. She has come into contact with the Lord. She falls down before Jesus (a gesture of homage, as in v. 22), and confesses her daring act.
Far from reprimanding her for her boldness, Jesus reassures her, addressing her affectionately as “daughter”. Like all those who “do the will of God” (3:35), she is welcomed into His family. Jesus will later commend Bartimaeus with the same words: Your faith has saved you (10:52). The Greek verb sòzò, used here in verses 23, 28, and 34, means both “save” and “heal.” The woman’s faith has opened her to receive not only physical healing but also the ultimate salvation of body and soul that it prefigures.
Jesus dismisses the woman with a traditional parting blessing: Go in peace (Exod. 4:18; Judg. 18:6)). The biblical understanding of peace in (Hebrew I, shalom) is not merely the absence of conflict but total harmony and wellbeing. She is healed of her affliction and enabled once again to participate fully in the covenant life of God’s people.
Yours in Christ,
Fr. Vincent Clemente