Saturday, June 27, 2009

**Updated** (see the end of the post) The Audacity To Touch the Hem of His Garment

This is the Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time. I am still coming down from the end of the Easter season, Corpus Christ and Trinity Sunday.

Today's Gospel, if the long form is used, has a story that never fails to move me.

There was a woman afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve years.
She had suffered greatly at the hands of many doctors
and had spent all that she had.
Yet she was not helped but only grew worse.
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?"
But his disciples said to Jesus,
"You see how the crowd is pressing upon you,
and yet you ask, 'Who touched me?'"
And he looked around to see who had done it.
The woman, realizing what had happened to her,
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."

This story is so remarkable for many reasons. Not the least of which is that in Jesus' time and in his religious culture, women did not enjoy much freedom, they certainly could not talk to a man in public. And if one could not talk to a man, one could not touch a man.

Add to that a woman who was hemorrhaging... Women who were bleeding were put away for that week each month, they were considered ritually impure. In fact, they had to bathe in the the ritual bath, or Mikvah before coming back into contact with men. (That image to the right is from the Mikvah web page that I had linked to.)
Yet this woman - who was bleeding, ignored all the societal and religious conventions and did just what she needed... She touched Jesus. It is so audacious that we really can't really imagine it through the lens of our own culture.

However, if any of us have ever been completely desperate, we can understand that part of it.

And I think that this is the thing, Jesus came to heal the sick. That is all of us! And we are all in our own ways "ritually impure" and yet must reach beyond that and go touch the Lord. We are then transformed and can transform others.

Every time I hear about someone who is rejected by their church, I must admit I wince. And I think of this Gospel.

It is worth noting that I also think of my own "impurity" when I returned to the Catholic Church in 1990. I was desperate and the hem of His garment was in my reach, so I touched it too.

I am still impure in so many ways, we all are. I think we need to rethink what impure is and how we deal with it, both in ourselves as well as others. The danger of the "mikvah of the mind" is that we think we can be cleansed and then that we are off the hook. Too bad for the rest of you filthy suckers...

It is not like that. We are all that woman and we all must bypass the empty ritual for the meaningful one, that is to touch the Lord. We touch Him because we know that he is the only way to be cleansed and healed.

Jesus, unlike access to the old temple, did not keep anyone out. And unlike a building made of stone, he could feel the power go out from him and know that healing had occurred. That is yet another remarkable element of Jesus' dynamic healing.

And that healing is not meant to be hoarded or Lorded over anyone, but should be used to heal others. That is of course, like so many things, easier said than done.

Don't clean the house so that the cleaning lady can come in. Don't just bathe in some self-inflicted tub of imagined purity.

Believe in Jesus and pursue Him, regardless of the risk.

And do this over and over again.

(I thought I wrote about this last year... and I did, from a slightly different perspective. If you want to read that, click here.)

***Updated*** And blogfriend Missy from St. Anne has posted this reflection for today. I am left speechless and filled with prayer, thank you Missy!

1 comment:

Missy Francis said...

"Don't clean the house so that the cleaning lady can come in. Don't just bathe in some self-inflicted tub of imagined purity."

Wow, Fran. Good words to meditate on. Thanks.