Jesus is walking with a large crowd about him toward the home of Jairus. Jairus had pleaded with Jesus to come with him to lay hands on his daughter because she was near death. On the way, “a woman afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve years” (Mk 5:25) reached out and touched the cloak of Jesus.
This woman was considered unclean, an untouchable, likened to a leper, such that she could not participate in the regular social activities of her community, including worship. She was most likely able to weave her way through the crowd to get to Jesus because as she approached, people gave way, not wanting to be “contaminated”. She had sought help for years and found none. She had heard about the healing powers of Jesus and believed: “If I but touch his clothes, I shall be cured” (Mk 5:28). The woman knew the risk that was involved. Touching a man in public, especially because she was unclean, was breaking the law. This act could lead to public shame and/or worse. Yet, she was willing to take the risk and was instantly healed.
Jesus, as the very embodiment of Love, healed her from his very being the moment she touched him. Jesus felt the power go out of him and asked who had touched his clothes. The woman could have attempted to walk away, could have remained silent, instead she “approached in fear and trembling. She fell down before Jesus and told him the whole truth” (Mk 5:33). Jesus did not condemn her for breaking the Levitical law. He acknowledged her faith and confirmed her healing, “Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be cured of your affliction” (Mk 5:34). In the midst of storm clouds of gloom and despair, Jesus was the radiant sun of hope and renewal.
While this whole incident is transpiring, there is Jairus, who must have been in agony. Storm clouds of fear gathered in his mind, as the last hope for his daughter whose life was hanging on a thread, was being tied up by this woman who Jesus was making the time to talk! Then the horrific clap of thunder sounded, the news of his daughter’s death is brought to him. Could this woman’s interruption have cost his daughter’s life? Jesus, again a light in the gathering darkness, spoke to Jairus, “Do not be afraid; just have faith” (Mk 5:36).
The same faith of the woman who he had just witnessed interacting with Jesus. The woman who may had taken up the precious moments that prevented Jesus from getting to his daughter. The woman who he had most likely seen time and again over the past twelve years and kept at a distance, or worse indifferently ignored. Most likely their eyes met after Jesus’ words to him. In his eyes fear and bewilderment, yet in hers a peace and strength of faith that may have given him just enough hope that led him to take those first steps with Jesus. They resumed their journey, arrived at the home of Jairus, and Jesus healed the daughter.
The account of Jairus, the woman with the hemorrhage, and their encounter with Jesus (Mk 5:21-43) has much to offer us today. Like Jairus, the synagogue official, who sought the aid of Jesus for his daughter, there are many in our country today that have serious need, and which is sometimes dire. Like the woman with the hemorrhage, someone on the peripheries, considered unclean, on the outside, who sought help for twelve years and could find no relief, risked all to get to Jesus, there are many seeking to come to our country seeking asylum, seeking a better life. They are willing to risk their lives to get here. Are we willing to encounter them as Jesus encountered the woman with the hemorrhage? Are we willing to provide equal access to healthcare for everyone in our country, as Jesus was willing to go to the home of Jairus to heal his daughter?
About 25.4 million refugees worldwide are fleeing their countries because of conflict or persecution. Our approach to those seeking a better life economically, those seeking asylum, no matter their country of origin, whether it be from our southern border or from across the seas, ought to be one in which we afford the opportunity for our brothers and sisters to do so. Following the lead of Jesus, we can protect our country as well as extend open arms to welcome those seeking entrance, seeking aid. We can also provide better care for those in need in our country now, some 33 million who do not still have access to health care.
Too many times in the history of our country, and unfortunately in our present time, has fear risen to produce the storm clouds of protectionism and isolationism directed toward those without and assimilation toward those within. Neither is a healthy approach. Regarding how we interact with one another, how we seek to provide for one another, we need to resist feeding our fear of lack and prejudices, and instead look to the light embodied by the words that Jesus spoke to Jairus in today’s Gospel when he said, “Do not be afraid; just have faith” (Mk 5:36).
Looking for scapegoats is not the answer either. We become better when we access the rich diversity of not only various cultures but of thought. A more unified approach while embracing the fullness of diversity is more of a challenge but richer and more sustaining as we seek to create policies that support the dignity of each person from the moment of conception, through each unique life, until natural death.
Conforming to Jesus, we can create a way to support and uplift one another. Even when it seems impossible, even when the storm clouds gather, Jesus as the Son of God, provides the light to guide our way through the gloom. Jesus as fully human has also experienced the worst of our fallen humanity and met it not with revenge but forgiveness and love. Let us place our faith and trust in Jesus, step away from mistrust and instead embrace one another.
Photo: Gathering clouds cannot hide the Saturday night.