13th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Ages 9-12): Using our Faith
(Begin by reading the Gospel. Sometimes it is good to have someone read it to you. The Word is meant to be heard.)
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. It is a powerful look at death through God's eyes. The filling of the sandwich, though, 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, a crowd has gathered to greet them. The father of the 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.
St. Mark draws our attention to one person among all the others in this crowd:
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.
Twelve years is a long time to suffer. She has been suffering as long as the girl Jesus will raise from the dead has lived. "Hemorrhages" means her body bleeds unnaturally. Instead of bleeding once a month like healthy women, her body bleeds all the time. This has many consequences for her.
First, she cannot have children if her body continues to bleed. In this culture, women are expected to marry and have children. If they cannot have children, their husbands may divorce them, leaving them alone. Since this woman is unaccompanied in this crowd and has spent all her wealth to find a cure, it sounds as though she does not have a husband. Despite the crowd, she is alone.
Second, the Jewish people have a healthy respect for life, and know that blood carries life within a person. There are many laws in scripture regarding blood. When a woman bleeds normally, once a month, it is a sign that she is at an age when 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. She is thought to be "unclean" for worship, and everything and everybody she touches becomes "unclean," too. We do not completely understand why this is thought to be necessary, but it is so. The woman in the crowd around Jesus, bleeds continuously. This means she is always isolated from the worshipping community. She can never join the others in prayers of praise and petition to the God she loves. She is isolated.
The woman is isolated and alone, without wealth, and her situation is getting worse, not better. 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. We have to remember that it is not acceptable for women and men who do not know each other, to speak to each other, much less touch each other. We also have to remember that this woman is considered unclean for worship of the God she loves. What happens to Jesus when she touches him? Does he not also become unclean for worship of the God he loves, the God he calls Father?
The woman seems to disregard both of these considerations. Does she forget what we are remembering? Or is something more going on here? She is doing what is right in the face of great obstacles. This requires fortitude--strength that can only be found in God. This is a gift of the Holy Spirit. We know, then, that the Holy Spirit is with her, and she is using 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 are happening here.
She is healed; she is no longer bleeding. After twelve long years, the possibility of new life exists within her.
She is healed 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 is healed, 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, isn't it? Jesus does not decide to heal her; it just happens. The woman is healed 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 has happened 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 has happened, the greatness of God, that she is filled 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 has made 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.
We can learn much from this woman who uses her faith, can't we? 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, we are given another infusion of the Holy Spirit, a second dose, so that we are fully prepared 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.