“As they were going, a woman who had suffered from hemorrhages
for twelve years came up behind Him and touched the tassel of His cloak.
‘If only I can touch His cloak,’ she thought, ‘I shall get well.’"
As we heard the Gospel reading this morning, we might presume that the
biggest miracle that Jesus worked was the raising of the daughter of Jairus
back to life. Interposed in the story of that phenomenal miracle is another
that sometimes gets lost: the story of the woman with the issue of blood,
healed by Jesus with a touch.
Each of the synoptic Gospels recounts the incident; Mark's Gospel probably
does it best. This is what Mark says about it in some detail.
“There was a woman in the area who had been afflicted with a hemorrhage
for a dozen years. She had received treatment at the hands of doctors of
every sort and exhausted her savings in the process. Yet she got no relief.
On the contrary, she only grew worse.”
(Mark apparently didn't cotton much to doctors!)
She had heard about Jesus and came up behind Him in the crowd and put
her hand to His cloak. "If I just touch His clothing," she thought, "I
shall get well." Immediately her flow of blood dried up and the feeling
that she was cured of her affliction ran through her whole body. Jesus
was conscious at once that healing power had gone out from Him. Wheeling
about in the crowd. He began to ask, "Who touched my clothing?" His disciples
said to Him, "You can see how the crowds hem You in, yet You ask, 'Who
touched Me?'" Despite this. He kept looking around to see the woman who
had done it. Fearful and beginning to tremble now as she realized what
had happened, the woman came and fell in front of Him and told Him the
whole truth. He said to her, "Daughter, it is your faith that has cured
you. Go in peace and be free of this illness." (Mk.5:25-34)
In Mark's recounting, he adds the idea that Jesus felt power go out
from Him and so He had to ask the question, "Who touched Me?" His disciples
thought, "Well, there is such a crowd around You. Anybody could have touched
You." But He kept looking over the crowd. Looking and looking and looking
until finally, the woman in fear and trembling admitted that she had touched
Him. Why was she so afraid? Ritually, according to the Law of Moses, she
was unclean and anyone who would touch her was unclean. Well, Jesus would
have no truck with laws and rules like that. He just wanted to know who
it was that touched Him. By her faith she had reached out to touch Jesus
and she was healed.
If you think about it, there are so many examples in the Gospel of Jesus
touching people; people being touched and healed. Jesus touched lepers:
again, contrary to ritual law, but He didn't mind. He touched lepers and
healed them. Blind Bartimaeus He healed. There was a man with a speech
impediment who was also deaf. Jesus healed him by touching his tongue and
his ears. Jesus would gather up the little children in His arms and love
them and bless them. Touch was very important to Jesus. Why? Because He
was human as well as divine. In His humanity, never forget, He redeemed
us. By the shedding of His blood on the cross, He redeemed us. Jesus was
fully human as well as fully divine.
If Jesus touched so many, many too would also want to touch Jesus and
He allowed this. Many came and touched Jesus and were healed as this woman
in the Gospel today. Remember the woman who knelt at the feet of Jesus
and washed His feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. Jesus
allowed it much to the consternation of the people who were present. Mary
Magdalene, after the resurrection, wanted to reach out and embrace the
feet of Jesus. He said, "Not yet. I have not yet ascended to My Father."
He invited Thomas to take His finger and put it into the place of the nails
and his hand into His side. "Touch Me, and believe," He said to Thomas.
Touch was very important for Jesus because He was fully human. If we
take a look at the way that Jesus deals with us now, we can see many examples
of touch that continue to this day. Touch is so important to us. If we
are truly human, the touch of another is very significant. Almost life-giving.
There was a study done a few years back about infants that were not
picked up out of their cribs. They were tended all right, but they were
not touched except in a very minimal way. The children languished in their
cribs. They needed the nurturing that came from being picked up and held,
coddled and loved.
If there is anything that I find most bizarre in visiting someone who
is in jail, it is the fact that there is a separation between visitor and
prisoner. There is usually a glass wall. You communicate with a telephone,
looking at the person, but no touching, so that contraband cannot be exchanged.
A good reason, but there is something abnormal about it.
Human beings appreciate what touch is. So did our God. So did our Lord
Jesus Christ. Because He is so wise, He knew touching is important. Hence,
in our whole sacramental system, the Lord has a way of physically touching
another. When I take a little girl and take water and pour it over her
forehead in Baptism, she is touched and the Lord fills her with life, His
own life. A bishop, by an imposition of his hand and anointing with chrism,
makes a baptized young man receive the Holy Spirit in a new and special
way in order that he might bear witness to his Christian life, even to
the point of crucifixion. With a word of forgiveness, a priest forgives
a fellow sinner in Holy Penance. "If anyone is sick among you, let him
call for the priests of the church and let them pray over him, anointing
him with oil." (A touch.) "And the prayer of faith will save the sick man."
Jesus knew how important touch is for those who are ill.
When I place in your hands what looks like bread and touch with your
lips what looks like wine, I feed you with eternal life in Christ our Lord.
A man kneels before his bishop and the bishop places his hands on the man's
head and prays for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit and the man rises priested
in order to bear witness to the Mystery of God's love in his life and to
Each of these sacraments is a manifestation of how God works: with physical
things, with a touch. A man and a woman stand before the altar of God and
clasp each other's hands. In so doing, they minister God to one another.
What a marvelous way in which God deals with us poor human beings because
He knows we are so stupid, so obtuse. We just don't get it unless He physically
reaches out and touches us.
Something else about a touch that is very important for all of us. You
know you can deceive people with words. You can craft words and lead people
down a garden path of deceit, but did you ever notice how difficult it
is to deceive a person with a touch? That form of communication is different
than using words. When I reach out with my hand and touch someone, it isn't
just my hand that is touching the other, my whole self touches the other.
It would be very difficult to do that in any deceitful way.
At the very core of our being is the whole notion of touch. Because
Jesus our Divine Lord is so human, how He would use touch! When He came
into the home of Jairus to raise the little girl from death to life, He
took her by the hand and raised her up. He lifted her up. A touch, again.
If you and I understand that, then understand something else about this
whole notion of touch with one another. It is quite good and normal, of
course. It is a form of communication that we use in a way that God would
use it. When you touch another in love, it is Christ in you who touches
another because you are in Christ. You are members of His body. And because
of that, you can convey this miracle of God's love with a touch. What power
we have. What power God has given to us in the Church, in her Sacraments,
these manifest signs of God's presence among us. But even in the simple
and ordinary dealings of our lives, we can touch one another, and, quite
literally, and it can be the touch of Christ's love Himself.
This week I would have you notice the people within your own household
that you touch. Notice how you touch. Notice what you are saying by that
touch. And know that it is you that touch. Especially know that it is Christ
in you who reaches out to touch another. "Who touched Me?" said Jesus in
today's Gospel. We can reach out and touch Him. But He touches us as well.
He touches us through others.
It's a sacred thing, isn't it? It's a sacred thing that can be perverted.
Pray God it isn't. But if it is such a sacred thing, let us use it the
way in which it was intended by our God: to burst through our shell of
self, to get to the very core of who and what we are in order that our
God can say, "Yes, I know. I love you."
Please note: These sermons are offered for your meditation.
If you wish to use them for some other purpose or republish them, please
credit St. Dunstan’s Church and Fr. Sisterman.