Blood, Shame, and the Healing Hand of God- 13th Sunday

Posted in christian, homily, inspirational, scripture by Rev. Martha on June 26, 2015

13th Sunday Ordinary time year B Wisdom 1: 13-24, 2: 23-24/ Ps 30: 2-13, 2 Corinthians 8: 7-15, Mark 5: 21-43

Blood, Shame and the Healing Hand of God 

Sometimes Mark’s Gospel goes from simple to complex in a sentence or two. Just when you thought you understood, it gets confusing. So let’s look at these two healings in Mark, and see what we find. 

On one hand we have a young girl, on the other, a grown woman. The girl’s father comes on her behalf; the girl never speaks.   The woman has no one to speak for her (remember, women had no business speaking in public). The girl’s father is bold and interrupts Jesus’ teaching. The woman quietly sneaks up, hoping only to touch his clothing and slip silently away. The father is synagogue ruler; people step aside to allow him to pass.   The woman was impoverished by the cost of medical treatment, showing the severity of her illness and impossibility of a cure. This woman was not supposed to be in the crowd. If people knew her condition, they would call out that she was unclean and she would be banished in shame from the gathering. The crowd would feel sympathy for the child, while the woman would disgust them. The woman had been ashamed and isolated for 12 long years, but Jesus addresses her warmly as “Daughter.” The girl was 12 years old, young and innocent, not quite yet a woman.   

But what grabs you about this girl and this woman is that for both there is certain sureness and a deep-seated belief that Jesus will cure them. The father says, “Lay your hands on my daughter and she will live”. The woman thinks, “If I only touch his clothes, I will be made well”. Jesus announces the healing of the woman in front of the crowd, curing her shame as well as her illness. He orders the girl’s family not to tell anyone. This is typical of Mark’s Gospel, ever so slowly raising the curtain on the mystery of Who Jesus Is.  

It is a rich and compelling healing story. It is amazing from every direction. I can imagine no other scenario where priests and preachers through the ages would even remotely consider hinting at the shame of “female problems” in a homily. What other 1st century Jewish man would be so attentive to a poor, sick, bleeding, woman who broke the rules, who inconvenienced and delayed him on his way to a dying child. By her mere touch, she made him unclean. By her mere presence, she risked shaming him too. And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace, and be healed of your affliction.” It is a blessing, it is healing, but most of all, it is praise and even admiration for her actions and her daring, presumptuous faith. Notice that he treated this woman with respect and care equal to the respect and care he poured out on the religious leader and his daughter. Here is true equality. Here is the level of equality that St. Paul is trying to teach in our 2nd reading. 

We’ve read the parables of the seeds, then the calming of the storm, then the healings of the daughters. Mark constantly asks, “Who do you say that Jesus is?” The purpose of his Gospel is to make you certain that Jesus is the Son of God. You come to know that truth from straightforward stories with emphasis on what Jesus did.   

This Biblical Jesus was strong, yet sensitive; he acted decisively. He was in control of himself and the situation like no one else, whether it was a storm at sea, a hungry crowd, or a dying child. He did not follow the rules of religion or “polite” society. He never said, “Later, I’m busy”. We find Jesus has authority, not human, but divine authority.  

Why does Mark include this woman’s story in his Gospel? Your missal offers the option of not reading it. I’m sure there are people who’d really rather not come to church to hear about a bleeding woman. Perhaps Mark treasured this story for the way it portrays Jesus, and for the healing Jesus offers for the things that shame us.   

The writers of Genesis and Job and Wisdom struggle with death. But I think the greater struggle we face is shame, whether it’s shame from our mistakes and failures, or shame forced on us. We trusted the wrong person and did things we sorely regret. We made bad decisions that had terrible impacts on others. We abandoned a friend, we broke a promise; we used someone thoughtlessly. We covered up a lie or let someone else take the blame. We watched someone be cruel and didn’t do anything to stop it. Having shame isn’t just needing forgiveness. Having shame means to be deeply embarrassed and having a wound festering in your memory which just won’t heal. Only God can heal shame, and God eagerly responds to the smallest touch from us. God attends to each of our needs in the most unexpected and individual and lavish ways. Our worst moments can be transformed into astounding blessings for ourselves and others. My husband was cruel and abusive. I was deeply ashamed of being in that situation. But now I thank God for the love and understanding I can offer bruised and battered women who come to this little old gray-haired priest.   

Jesus stopped in mid crisis to publicly heal and release an unnamed woman from the shame. At that moment, she was the most worthy of all God’s children. He refused to turn away when confronted with a life in the balance. While we might have seen worthy child vs unworthy woman, Jesus knew otherwise. A daughter or son of any age can reach out to our God-with-us, and be given healing and love.


2 Responses

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  1. Telesphore Xalxo said, on June 27, 2015 at 2:04 am

    Thank you for your inspiring homily you have sent for me. I will give this homily to my faithful on Sunday. May God bless you. Yours in Jesus Christ Fr. Telesphore Xalxo

  2. rawickless said, on June 27, 2015 at 10:10 am

    Thanks, Martha, another beautifully written and thoughtful reflection!! Hope the healing continues! Love, Ruth Ann

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