“If only I can touch his cloak, I shall be cured.” Jesus turned around and saw her, and said, “Courage, daughter! Your faith has saved you.” And from that hour the woman was cured (Mt 9:21-22).
Just to touch his cloak may seem a small and insignificant act, but by doing so, this woman showed tremendous courage. Suffering from hemorrhaging for twelve years, broke from spending all her resources to be healed, she risked. She could have been severely punished, beaten or stoned for this small act. Under the Levitical code her condition deemed her unclean, in the same category as a leper, a pariah. Touching someone else in that condition would then make them unclean. Yet, in that small touch, that great act of courage, “power had gone forth from him” (Mk 5:30), and she was completely healed. Not only did the woman have courage to touch Jesus, but to admit she had done so when Jesus questioned who had touched him.
In calling the woman who touched him out, Jesus was not condemning her, Jesus was acknowledging her faith and restoring her to the community from which she had been ostracized. Jesus restored her dignity. How many women today still feel and experience the pain of exclusion, not having access to the full and equal benefits of society and the Church? How many people are still considered outcasts and pariahs in our communities?
Pope Francis in his general audience from August 31, 2016 stated: “Once again Jesus, with his merciful behavior, shows the church the path it must take to reach out to every person so that each one can be healed in body and spirit and recover his or her dignity as a child of God”. We too then are to treat each person we encounter, in person and online, with dignity, mercy, and respect.
May we respect the dignity of the women in our realm of influence, have the courage and persistence of this woman, to risk and reach out to Jesus even when it may cost us to do so, as well as recognize that Jesus is present in the marginalized, those on the peripheries among us, those we may consider unclean. In risking to reach out and touch one another, the healing presence of Jesus will go forth from us to one another and our lives will be transformed!
Icon of woman touching the cloak of Jesus
I invite you to read and meditate today on the story in full from each of the synoptic records: Mark 5:21-43, Matthew 9:18-26 and Luke 8:40-56. These are powerful accounts!