“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 exhibit the 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?
The past few years have shed a brighter light on the abuses of human dignity in our own country. While these examples are by no means new, their coming from the shadows has been long overdue. The ongoing objectification of women came forth because of the high profile cases of Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby. Unjust laws that allow those fleeing violence, hunger, and persecution from our southern border to be denied political asylum, and worse, children to be separated from their families have been exposed. DACA recipients rights were recently upheld by the Supreme court but they are still forced to live in fear of deportation. From Trayvon Martin to George Floyd, people of color continue to unnecessarily lose their lives. After decades of racial insensitivity to Native Americans, two of the highest-profile teams, the Washington Redskins and the Cleveland Indians, will be discussing the possibility of new names and mascots.
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.
The courage and persistence of the woman with a hemorrhage led her to reach out to touch Jesus even though she was crossing social norms. Jesus affirmed her move and lifted her up as a model for those marginalized, those on the peripheries among us, those we may consider unclean. In this time of bringing indignity and injustice into the light, may we too have this woman’s courage, may we reach out to Jesus and experience his healing presence. May we stand up for the dignity of and equal acccess for all.
Icon of the woman with a hemorrhage touching the cloak of Jesus