By Sarah Christmyer
The most powerful mural I’ve ever seen is one that fills the front of a room in the church at Magdala, by the Sea of Galilee. Dead center is a light: a tiny glow that starts where a woman’s hand touches the hem of a man’s robe. The rest of the wall is filled with the sandalled feet of the crowd; fringed linen; a single wooden staff. It is an intimate picture. It draws you down to the baked earth and leaves you yearning with that woman, stretching out to touch the Lord. You see that flare of light and suddenly, you know: he is here, with you, as well. The room is aptly named The Chapel of Encounter.
God Doesn’t Do Aloof
“You are Known” is the title Colleen Mitchell gives her chapter on the hemorrhaging woman of Mark 5:24-34. In the same way that that small light grounds the mural at Magdala, this chapter grounds the book. “Who Does He Say You Are” has no meaning without the truth she points out here: that “God doesn’t ‘do’ aloof…. He is your Creator and maker, your healer and your Redeemer. He is your father, brother, and friend, the lover of your soul” (p. 51).
“God doesn’t ‘do’ aloof.” Even though we’d like a drive-by healer sometimes. At least I would! “Just fix me, Lord, and let me be” is how I’m tempted to pray. And I hide my hemorrhaging wounds and lurk in corners rather than look him in the eyes.
The woman in the mural has bent low to the ground. She’s down among the other people’s feet, unnoticed, stretching to the bottom of his robe. A flash of healing has gone out. She’ll be feeling it now, and so will he. And he will call for her. She’s healed in body but she is body and soul and Jesus cares for her soul as well. It’s not just the bleeding that has plagued her, but her invisibility. Her separation from community.
Who Touched Me?
“Who touched me?” Jesus asks. Now she’ll have to stand. She’ll have to come out from among the anonymous feet to look him face to face. She’ll have to come to a place where she can know and be known. And that is where the real healing will take place. When she encounters Jesus, she will be more than healed of her disease. She will no longer be alone. And she will “go in peace” of heart.
I wonder how many of us try to stop at touching the hem of Jesus’s garment? We go to mass, pay our dues…but never look him in the eyes. And all the while, he’s inviting us into a relationship that will bring us peace and make us whole.
Read Colleen’s chapter and learn: God wants you to know that he knows you. He knows you inside and out and he loves what he knows. But God doesn’t do drive-by healing, as Colleen points out. Allow him to draw you into his gaze. Be known and be healed and be at peace.
To Ponder, Reflect and Discuss:
- Read Mark 5:24-34 a few times, putting yourself in the place of the woman. What do you hear?
- Can you describe a time when you approached Jesus with a need, only to be drawn into an unexpected encounter with him?
About the Author:
Sarah Christmyer is co-developer and founding editor of The Great Adventure Catholic Bible Study program. The author of numerous Bible studies and several guided journals for Bible reading, she speaks at conferences and retreats on topics related to Scripture and the Catholic faith. She teaches at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, Philadelphia. Follow her blog at www.ComeIntotheWord.com.
Thank you for your reflection Sarah. I noticed that your involvement with the Great Adventure Catholic Bible Study program. I have heard of but never experienced the program but it sounds like it would be powerful.
Today’s daily reading is the Matthew version of the hemorrhaging woman. In that version it is faster,
“She said to herself, ‘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 .” -Matthew 9:21-22
I like the Mark version used as the entry point and foundation of the chapter as it adds the additional layer of suspense of Jesus asking, “Who touched me?” but I reflect on how the Matthew version still gets at the heart of Jesus recognizing someone desiring healing and with great faith in him and Jesus deciding to turn around and acknowledge her and her faith. I think the question in the Mark version adds suspense because there would be a certain level of vulnerability to answering that she was the one who touched him since she would not yet know what the response would be, other than of course trusting in his goodness but in the moment, it would be easy to have a doubt or at least a thought of what if he is upset? I see her stating that it was her as a second act of faith in him. That makes me hear/reminds me to always approach God with faith in his goodness and desire to heal, to not doubt in his love for me.
My favorite lines from this chapter were from the God doesn’t do aloof section highlighted in this post – “But our Jesus is not just a God of healing who zaps us from afar and waits for us to realize we’ve been healed. […] He heals us with intimacy. He heals by reminding us that we are completely known, and completely loved. […]he calls us to him so that we can both be healed and transformed. And the cause of our transformation is being fully known by him–and in turn allowing ourselves to find our acceptance and our worth in his merciful eyes, rather than in any human affirmation” (pp. 48-49). This makes me think about the power of the Litany of Humility which I saw for the first time last summer, and it has stuck with me/I have revisited it many times sense. This section also makes me think about the power of the Eucharist in our journeys toward healing and sanctification.
Amanda, those are lovely thoughts on the different insights Matthew and Mark bring to this scene! Another source of insight is to see how Mark draws a comparison between Jairus and the woman. I love the richness of the different gospel accounts and the way they can touch us differently at different times in our lives.
Keep up the thoughtful reading, and may God continue to touch your heart and confirm you in your faith!
Thanks again for sharing.
You might be interested in this post I wrote last year about the Hemorrhaging Woman and her healing encounter with Jesus: http://bit.ly/2e2cas3
Thank you for sharing your reflection. I have never seen that mural, but from your description, it does sound powerful.
Janet … I WAS supposed to include the mural in the post. OOPS.. it is there now so we can all reflect on that powerful moment between the woman and Jesus!!
Thanks Allison. It is powerful, I think I will be contemplating this all day.