September 11 – Monday of the Fifteenth Week after Pentecost Mark 5:24-34
Desperation: Mark 5:24-34, especially vs. 27: “When she heard about Jesus, she came behind Him in the crowd and touched His garment.” Each of us, depending on our personal experience, needs, and knowledge, will sometimes risk taking a chance in the face of life’s circumstances. Today’s Gospel provides important bits of spiritual and physical information about a woman who faces such a moment of choice in her life. Will she dare to approach the famous rabbi, Jesus of Nazareth, known for his ability to heal “all kinds of of sicknesses and all kinds of diseases” (Mt 4:23)?
This particular woman, for twelve long years, has been seeking help for a disorder that dominates her health and very existence – an unremitting “flow of blood” (Mk 5:25). This flow has now continued without ceasing for twelve years! We are not referring to the normal menstrual cycle common to women in their child-bearing years, but twelve years of endless hemorrhaging.
Surely, here is sufficient reason to seek help from medical practitioners of any and every sort. Such practitioners certainly existed in ancient Palestine, just as they do in our present era of scientific medicine. Doctors today, for all the advances and discoveries of modern science, still merely “practice” when it comes to dealing with the diseases of our bodies.
Note the phrase – “when she heard about Jesus” – that prefaces the action in verse 27. It is amazing how quickly news gets around, even in an isolated rural setting. For anyone suffering from a maddening ailment of the sort afflicting this woman, reports of a traveling healer like Jesus would immediately attract attention. Plainly, word about the Lord is the hot topic of the day, for a great multitude follows Him during his itinerant ministry (vs. 24). Jesus is a celebrity!
What she hears leads to a plan to regain her health without compromising herself or Jesus. The evangelist explains her thinking on this point: she intends to come “behind Him in the crowd” (vs. 27) and touch him unnoticed. In this way, she will avoid exposing herself – and Him – to punishment and public censure.
On the one hand, she is determined to approach Him; she has heard the prevailing talk about His ministry, which leads her to think that He can heal her endless bleeding. After all, he has done as much and more for others: “If only I may touch His clothes, I shall be made well” (vs. 27). On the other hand, she knows that for a women with a discharge from her body to approach a man openly violates the Law, and could prove dangerous (see Lev. 15:19-27).
Let us look carefully at what actually happens. Surreptitiously, the woman touches Jesus’ garments and instantly knows she is healed. The Lord, realizing “that power had gone out of Him,” inquires, “Who touched My clothes?” (vs. 30). Although the physical interaction is simple, two spiritual actions are hidden from view. These have eternal value, for the acts of the woman and the Lord become a life-giving revelation.
At this key juncture, the Lord’s disciples become involved (vs. 31). Let us, as disciples, reflect on Mark’s report expectantly, for now we, too, are drawn into the meeting between the Lord and the woman. Let us learn from the woman, who “fearing and trembling, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell down before Him,” confessing her faith (vs. 33). May we respond as she does, so that we may “go in peace, and be healed of [our] affliction” (vs. 34).
Saint Peter of Damascus reminds us that “there are many mysteries hidden in the divine Scriptures, and we do not know God’s meaning in what is said there . . . It is stupid and uncouth, declares Saint Dionysios the Areopagite, to give attention not to the meaning intended but only to the words. But he who seeks with holy grief will find.”
The image of God was truly preserved in you, O Mother . . . You taught us to disregard the flesh, for it passes away, but to care instead for the soul, since it is immortal. – Hymn of Saint Veronica