Mark 5: 21 – 43
Lord, who can grasp all the wealth of just one of your words?
What we understand in the Bible is much less than what we leave behind,
like thirsty people who drink from a fountain.
Lord, your word has many shades of meaning, just as those who study it have many different points of view. You have coloured your words with many hues so that each person who studies it can see in it what he loves.
Lord, you have hidden many treasures in your Word so that each of us is enriched as we meditate upon it.
Mark loves to combine his stories in groups of three, all of them teaching us a particular truth. You will better understand this if you are aware how these stories are organised relative to each other. Mark uses these three stories to explain how ALL FORMS OF OPPRESSION were abolished by Jesus.
The Cure of the demoniac (5: 1 – 20).
Healing of the daughter of Jairus (5: 21 – 24 part 1).
Healing of the woman with the haemorrhage. (5: 25 – 34)
Healing of the daughter of Jairus (5: 35 – 43 part 2).
The middle story, “Healing of the woman with the haemorrhage” is the most important and we are going to use it for our reflection.
Jewish society was dominated by the doctrine of “uncleanness”. Shepherds, tax collectors, people with physical defects or running sores were considered ritually unclean. Some animals especially pigs were considered unclean. Women after child birth and having their menstrual cycles were considered unclean.
“Let the oppressed go free.” Lk 4: 18
(Jesus abolishes all unnecessary burdens on us)
Healing of the woman with the haemorrhage.
(5: 25 – 34)
The story of this woman is striking because in it Mark shows Jesus dealing openly and compassionately with a female condition that was taboo. Jesus sweeps aside the false teachings of religion and society.
25There was a woman afflicted with haemorrhages for twelve years. 26She had suffered greatly at the hands of many doctors and had spent all that she had. Yet she was not helped but only grew worse. 27She had heard about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak. 28She said, “If I but touch his clothes, I shall be cured.” 29Immediately her flow of blood dried up. She felt in her body that she was healed of her affliction. 30Jesus aware at once that power had gone out from him, turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who has touched my clothes?” 31But his disciples said to him, “You see how the crowd is pressing upon you, and yet you ask, “Who touched me?” 32And he looked around to see who had done it. 33The woman, realising what had happened to her, approached in fear and trembling. She fell down before Jesus and told him the whole truth. 34He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be cured of you complaint.”
RECOGNISE / reflect
25There was a woman afflicted with haemorrhages for twelve years. Twelve years is symbolic of a life-time but it also refers to the Jewish people who were oppressed by the teachings and preoccupation with ritual uncleanness.
Our hearts go out to this woman when we read that she had “suffered greatly”. How touching is the comment that, “She fell down before Jesus and told him the whole truth.”
In our imagination listen to her as she tells her story.
“Jesus, I had been happily married for a number of years. God blessed us with a boy and a girl. They are beautiful children. Then twelve years ago everything changed. I could not stop bleeding. I was totally exhausted. Of course I went to the doctors but they were worse than useless, in fact they made me feel more sick. The sickness and exhaustion I could have handled, but then, I was labelled unclean. My husband would have nothing to do with me, the religious authorities kept on telling him, “This wife of yours is unclean.” I was excluded from the family circle, I ate alone. I was not even allowed to hold my children. Of course there was absolutely no possibility of having other children. As if this burden was not enough the local rabbi forbade me to enter the synagogue. All my friends abandoned me. I was living the life of a dead person.
Jesus’ reply to her is, “Shalom” – walk in peace. In one short word Jesus drives out the demon of the doctrine of ‘uncleanness’. How could we possibly label a person unclean after listen to how Jesus abolished to whole idea?
realising what had happened to her, approached in fear and trembling.
The middle part of the story emphasises how important it is to be in touch with Jesus. The transformation in the woman and in society that Jesus initiates only takes place because people stay in touch (connected) with Jesus through his words. We will then have an experience of God just as this woman did. She knew that she had been touched by God, she had had, an experience of God. When you find the words “fear and trembling” in the scriptures, it refers to a normal response to having an experience of God. In scripture it does not refer to being afraid.
RESPOND / Pray
Lord, it sometimes happens that we help people without realising it. Some word we say, some gesture we make and they are deeply touched. We pray that we may be more like Jesus, so that when we become aware of what has happened we speak gently to them, encourage then to tell their story, assure them that it was their faith that restored them to health, and help them to go in peace, fully free of their complaint. 1
- De Verteuil, M; Lectio Divina with the Sunday Gospels, Year B; p173