|statue by Angela Johnson|
I have to share a thought about a woman I know well and whom I have never encountered. She is a woman of my own time and part of a story begun long ago. I think of her regularly and have spent today in her company.
There was a woman afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve years…She had heard about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak. She said, ‘If I but touch his clothes, I shall be cured.’ Immediately, her flow of blood dried up. She felt in her body that she was healed of her affliction. Jesus, aware at once that power had gone out from him, turned around in the crowd and asked, ‘Who has touched my clothes?’ …The woman, realizing what had happened, approached in fear and trembling. She fell down before Jesus and told him the whole truth. He said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be cured of your affliction.’ (From today’s Gospel–Mark 5:21-43)
The story indicates that this woman was hemorrhaging blood…glory, do I know what that is like. It is awful, embarrassing, immobilizing, and a potentially grave health concern. But on a less literal note, I also think of her as a woman who was losing herself, if blood is the stuff of “being.” The symbol of losing blood so freely speaks to me of a woman who is wounded, whose self is fading, whose spiritual being is wasting away via old wounds that no one as yet has been able to heal. I know something of that too.
But she made a choice. She did not let go completely, or allow the final threads to fray.
The woman believed that touch would heal her, intimate encounter with God, would heal her… And Jesus knew when someone sought him for fear of losing herself. To her, his power went out and he felt it. She was losing herself, her being, and reached for Jesus–a connect, a touch, that becomes an encounter of healing and of reconciliation. The touch becomes a prayer of salvation. The woman is drawn back to herself, made whole, and again able to embody her “being-ness.”
I can not help but recall the friend who held me when I had few words to explain a difficult situation in high school, the hands that have laid themselves upon my head when I have sought the sacrament of reconciliation…my rscj sister who tethered me to the here and now by keeping her hand on my arm when I was coming out of anesthesia…the massage after surgery…and again years later after returning from tearing my ACL..the friend who listens, who looks with love, who asks questions or is quiet…who offers a shoulder, a hand… so many times…
I can not help but recall the people who allowed my reach and who have touched me in holy welcome…
Like the knowing welcome of Jesus…who stays with and does not leave…who does not chastise reaching out but feels it for what it is at its most aching core: a pushing back against the darkness of despair and loss of being-ness, a cry of re-membering and healing, a desire for encounter where what is most fully human meets what is most gloriously divine and we are recognized, honored, held in love, and sent forth anew.