Our Gospel reading today has a story within a story, so to speak. Both involve miraculous healing that Jesus performed – well, one of them was more than just a healing; he actually raised one person from the dead, and the other one he healed of a hemorrhage that was slowly killing her. I think it is interesting that both of these healings involved the number 12: the woman who had the hemorrhage had been suffering from it for twelve years, and the young girl was 12 when she died. Perhaps this is symbolic of the fact that regardless of age, everyone is in need of Christ’s healing power.
Young or old, we all live in the shadow of death. But our first reading from Wisdom tells that us that, “God did not make death, nor does he rejoice in the destruction of the living. For he fashioned all things that they might have being….” God made us not to die and cease to exist, but rather to live forever. But not in this world as we know it, because it has been corrupted by sin. God has instead given us the promise that at the end of time – the end of this world – He will return in glory and bring about a new heaven and a new earth. All those who have died faithful to Him will be raised to a new and everlasting life in this new creation. There will be no more sorrow, no more sickness, no more aging, no more death.
This is what the Lord has promised us if we have faith in Him and strive to follow him. But going back to the two miracles that Jesus performs in today’s Gospel: first a synagogue official named Jairus approaches Jesus and begs him to come home with him because his daughter is near death. He has heard about other miracles that Jesus has performed and is desperate that Jesus might also save his daughter. People are crowding all around Jesus; they have all heard about the incredible things he has done, and they want to see him and get close to him. No doubt some of them are simply “star-struck”; they just want to see who this man is whom everyone is talking about. But in the crowd, there is also a woman who has been suffering from a hemorrhage for twelve years. She has been literally bleeding for 12 years and is slowly dying. She has spent all her money on doctors who have only made her worse. She has no other options left. But when she hears that this miracle-worker named Jesus has come to her town, she believes that just by touching his cloak she will be healed. As soon as she does so, she is healed; and Jesus feels power go out of him and knows that someone has touched him.
Of course, there are people all around him, jostling him and bumping into him. But just because they touched Jesus did not mean that any of them were healed of whatever ailments they might have had. Only the woman who touched Jesus with faith was healed. And when Jesus stopped and asked, “Who touched me?”, she came forward trembling. She was afraid because in the Jewish Law, anyone who has touched blood or who has themselves been bleeding is in a state of ritual impurity and as such could not touch anyone until they had gone through the customary ritual purifications. But because this woman had been bleeding for such a long time, she was in a constant state of ritual impurity and so was supposed to stay away from everyone. And nor could she even enter the temple to worship the Lord. Because she had touched Jesus, according to the Jewish Law, Jesus himself would then have been considered ritually impure. But, being God, it was not possible for Jesus to be ritually impure. And instead, the woman was automatically healed – her blood flow stopped and she was made clean.
This woman is a great example of faith to us. And it is faith that makes her healing possible. Remember, Jesus was surrounded by people who kept touching him. But none of the others were touching him out of faith. Jesus has the power to heal, but it’s like faith is the activating principle – faith is that which “activates” his power, so to speak. What is our relationship with Jesus like? Is our relationship with Jesus similar to that of the people in the crowd around Jesus – we bump into him on occasion, perhaps coming to Mass from time to time, praying to him when we need something – or do we reach out to Him desiring that He heal our souls, with faith that He has the power to do so?
The healing that Jesus really desires to give us is of course spiritual healing. Yes, he has the power to heal physically, and sometimes he still does heal people physically even in the present day. When I was at seminary, a fellow seminarian collapsed suddenly one day and stopped breathing for almost 20 minutes. He was rushed to the hospital, but everyone was told that if he survived, the best case scenario was that he would have severe brain damage for the rest of his life. Immediately word spread and everyone started storming heaven with prayers. Amazingly, the next day he opened his eyes and regained consciousness. The next day he sat up in bed. The day after that he started walking. Today he is a priest and is completely healthy – zero brain damage and no long-term effects. Yes, miracles still do happen today.
But again, the healing that Jesus most desires to give us is spiritual, because we were not made for this world. As beautiful as it is and as wonderful as it can often be, we all know that this world is not paradise. And human beings, try as we might, will never be able to create paradise here on earth. Without God, we only end up creating hell. While the bodies we have now are only temporary, our souls will last beyond death. And so God desires to heal our souls of their spiritual ailments. But first we have to recognize that we are in need of healing. Perhaps, like the woman with the hemorrhage, ours is a spiritual illness that has been slowly sapping the spiritual life out of us. Or perhaps everything seems to be fine and then we experience a sudden, catastrophic spiritual collapse. Either way, there is a cure, and the cure is the same: go to Jesus. Go to him with faith, not faith in yourself and your own power or abilities, but in His. Reach out to him in faith and ask him to heal you.
After the woman with the hemorrhage had been healed, Jesus wanted to know who she was. He wasn’t going to scold her of course; rather, he wanted to have a personal encounter with her: he wanted to look at her and he wanted her to look at him. Jesus desires the same for us: a personal encounter of faith and of love, so that He might heal us.