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13th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Ages 9-12): Using Our Faith


This Sunday the Gospel recounts two miracles of healing, one account sandwiched within the other. The miracle that forms the bread of the sandwich, tells of Jesus raising a twelve-year-old girl from the dead. The filling of the sandwich, though, gives us a key to understanding the bread. Even more, it gives us something to think about as we move from our Baptism towards Confirmation.

When Jesus and his disciples arrive back from their trip across the lake, they find a crowd gathered to greet them. The father of a twelve-year-old girl begs Jesus to come to his house to heal her. Jesus goes with him.

On the way,

a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him.

These people want so badly to be with him. They are drawn to him, almost like metal to a magnet. What makes him so magnetic? The sense that something important is about to happen? The sense that he has the answers to all their questions? Perhaps the air around him crackles with the possibility of the Kingdom of God.

Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages 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.

For twelve years—as long as Jairus' daughter has lived—this woman suffers from unnatural bleeding. Instead of bleeding once a month like healthy women, her body bleeds all the time. This has bad consequences for her.

First, this culture expects her to have children but the bleeding means she cannot. Her husband may divorce her, leaving her alone. Has this happened to her? We do not know. But the wealth she spent to find a cure was her own. And no one accompanies her in the crowd. Despite all the people she is alone.

Second, ancient scripture contains many laws about blood. Blood carries life. When a woman bleeds normally, once a month, she is capable of bearing new life into the world. She gives thanks for the possibility of new life that exists within her. However, when she bleeds, she must stay apart from the worshipping community. She cannot join in the community's prayers to the God she loves. People consider her "unclean" for worship. Everything and everybody she touches becomes "unclean," too. We do not completely understand why this is thought to be necessary, but it is so. This woman bleeds continuously. She is always isolated from her worshipping community. She can never join the others in prayers of praise and petition to the God she loves. She is isolated.

St. Mark draws our attention to this person, isolated and alone, without wealth, her situation getting worse, not better. Of all the people in this passage, he describes her with the most detail. Why? It seems that he wants to make sure that she is seen.

Which is good, because no one else sees her.

But she has a plan.

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.”

This is quite a bold plan, actually. The woman should be afraid to touch Jesus because it is not acceptable for women to touch or even speak to a man she does not know. The woman should be afraid that her touch will contaminate Jesus, will make him also unclean for worship of the God he loves, the God he calls Father.

But the woman does not seem to be afraid. She does what is right in the face of great obstacles. This requires fortitude—strength only found in God. This is a gift of the Holy Spirit. We know then, that under the cover of the crowd, the Holy Spirit is with her, and she uses a gift given to her by God.

Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease.

Several things happen here.

She heals; she no longer bleeds. After twelve long years, the possibility of new life exists within her.

She heals by touching Jesus. Her touch does not in any way contaminate him. It seems like Jesus is not just magnetic, but is electromagnetic! Touching him transfers the health, the power, the fullness of the Kingdom of God into her. Touching him contaminates her with the Kingdom of God!

She heals, and she feels the change. Without any sort of examination or confirmation by an external sign, she knows deep within her body. This deep knowing, a knowing that can only come from God, is another gift of the Holy Spirit. She uses one gift, and another is given to her.

Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my clothes?” And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, ‘Who touched me?’” He looked all around to see who had done it.

This miracle is unique, is it not? Jesus does not decide to heal her; it just happens. The woman heals without Jesus willing it. It must happen because God wills it. Imagine being so firmly planted in the plan of God, that God's will is done without even having to think about it!

But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth.

The knowledge of what happens to her fills her with fear and trembling. Is she afraid of Jesus? No. Like the disciples who witness Jesus calming the wind and sea, she is so aware of the magnitude of what happens, the greatness of God, that she fills with wonder and awe. Here is another gift of the Holy Spirit given to her! Making herself small before this greatness is a sign of piety, that great love of God. It is yet another gift of the Holy Spirit. Using one gift, opens her to so much more.

Jesus said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”

Her faith makes her well—her faith that causes her to act, her faith that causes her to use the gift of the Holy Spirit that she has been given.

Jesus calls her daughter. Her faith has made her a part of his family. She is no longer alone.

Jesus says, "be healed of your disease." She is restored to health, and restored to the community of faith. She can worship the God she loves with the others. She is no longer isolated.

Jesus says, "go in peace." The Hebrew word for peace is "shalom"—a word that means wholeness, fullness. The fullness of the Kingdom of God is within her. She is whole.

All this happens before Jesus arrives at Jairus' house to find the child dead. Will Jairus learn from the bold faith of this woman who bled? Will he use fortitude and not fear? Will he allow room for the Holy Spirit to work?

We can learn much from this woman who uses her faith. We have been baptized and have been given the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is with us, just as the Holy Spirit is with the woman in the crowd. At Confirmation, God gives us another infusion of the Holy Spirit, a second dose, so to prepare us fully to go out into the world, using our gifts to bring forth more, using our faith to bring about the fullness of the Kingdom here on earth.

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