Luke 8:42b-48Transforming Love Into Healing
Jesus moved along, almost crushed by the crowd. In the crowd was a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, and though she had spent all she had on physicians, no one could cure her. She came up behind Jesus and touched the fringe of Jesus' cloak, and immediately the bleeding stopped.
"Who touched me?" Jesus asked?
When no one nearby responded, Peter said, "Rabbi, it's the crowd pressing around you."
But Jesus said, "Someone touched me. I felt power leave me."
When the woman realized that she had been noticed, she approached in fear and knelt before Jesus. She explained in front of the crowd why she had touched Jesus and how she had been instantly healed.
Jesus said to her, "Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace."
In her book Things Seen and Unseen: A Year Lived in Faith, Nora Gallagher writes: "In most of the other church seasons, we trace the life of Jesus--from expected arrival to resurrection, Advent to Eastertide. But in Ordinary Time we are in our own lives, living out the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost" (203).
In John 14:12, shortly before promising them the Holy Spirit, Jesus says, "Very truly I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these."
My best friend and I were talking recently about the hymn "They'll Know We Are Christians By Our Love." She finds it illogical and arrogant. And it is. To say that people will see love in action and think, "Those must be Christians," is to say that no other belief system can inspire people to act with love; and we know that's untrue. But I can't help liking the song. For it reminds us that our most defining characteristic should be love.
We are called to live our lives such that we are reflecting the face of God to everyone we encounter, such that people who encounter us think, "That force that drives your life, I want to be connected to that, because it is so obviously a good and life-giving thing."
The woman we read about in today's story had been suffering from bleeding for 12 years, and all the medical professionals had been unable to help her. She has done everything she is "supposed" to do, to no effect. She recognizes in Jesus the power to heal her.
What do people recognize in us?
I don't think that Jesus' words mean that our faith gives us the power to effect medical miracles for ourselves or others, but I think that they do remind us that we, too, have been empowered by the Holy Spirit. My friend Scott articulated it as: we transform our faith into love, and we share our love, and that's how we heal.
I recently finished reading Susan Wendell's book The Rejected Body: Feminist Philosophical Reflections on Disability, so I have a whole discourse in my head about "cure" and the social model of disability, but for the moment I'll just encourage you to think beyond the medical model of "healing."
This woman has been suffering for twelve years.
She has seen many physicians and none have been able to cure her. Have you ever been to a doctor who doesn't know what's wrong with you and doesn't know how to treat it? This is not usually the beginning of a beautiful friendship. More likely, the doctor sends you away -- possibly telling you there isn't really anything wrong with you, possibly telling you that your suffering is your own fault.
The woman's bleeding also renders her ritually unclean, severely circumscribing her community interaction.
She is likely hungry for human contact.
She is also hungry for contact with the Holy.
Ritual uncleanness means decreased access to the Temple, the dwelling place of the Holy.
So, you've been failed by or rejected by or turned away from .... the medical establishment, your community, your place of worship. Where do you go?
According to this story, you go to Jesus.
Jesus has returned to Galilee from the other side of the lake -- welcomed by an expectant crowd who likely know of Jesus' travels to towns and villages, proclaiming the good news of the kindom of God and healing people.
And so this woman reaches out, to touch some of that healing power.
Who has come to us for healing?
What were we able to offer them?
Did we offer them a kind word? Did we offer them a comforting touch? Did we offer them a safe space in which to be vulnerable and real?
As we move into a time of reflection, I invite you to reflect on moments when you have been able to offer healing to someone -- or when someone has offered healing to you -- and if you feel so moved, I invite you to share that aloud, lighting a candle.