Lenten Series: The Woman Who Touched the Hem of His Garment

In the three synoptic Gospels there is a tiny story, a story that almost goes unnoticed, lost in a myriad of miracles, a flood of compassion shown by Christ for the people around Him. It’s sometimes called the story of the woman of great faith, and it’s the story of a woman who had been ill for 12 years. Her illness touched every part of her life. Her illness was a hemorrhage and this hemorrhage made her unclean, an untouchable, a member of the lowest caste. In addition, common sense tells us she would have been exhausted, probably drastically anemic, and hardly able to care for her family. She must have been at the end of her rope. Luke, the physician, tells us she had been to many doctors and, in fact, had spent all of her income on doctors and hadn’t received any help. No Premarin in 30AD. Our friend (one tradition tells us her name was Berenice) knew what she had to do. She was ready to surrender. She reached "bottom" and was ready to ask for help. She heard of Jesus, the Nazarene. Everybody was talking about Him, how He made the blind see and the lame walk. And now she heard He was coming to her neighborhood. Maybe it was crazy, but maybe, just maybe He could heal her. Could He? As soon as she saw Him, she knew. She saw Him from far off, with the crowds pressing around Him. There were the people they called the disciples, the people who traveled with Him and then there were hundreds of others, crowds of people who wanted to catch a glimpse of Him, who wanted to speak to him, who wanted to be healed. Through all those people she saw his face. She knew He was the answer. She just knew. So she pushed her way into the crowd. It took every single ounce of energy she possessed. She wasn’t used to crowds, wasn’t used to even being out in the heat and the dust and sun. What if this didn’t work? What if she couldn’t get close to Him. "I will," she thought, "If I can just touch the hem of his garment, I will be cured. I know." The garment He wore, we’re told, was a cape or long hood that pious Jewish men wore. It had four tassels hanging down, almost touching the ground. By the time she reached Him, she was nearly fainting. The people around her became black shadows and her head felt like it was floating off her shoulders. The dust filled her mouth. But she was there. She knelt on the ground, the posture we take when we’re ready to cry out, "I give up! Lord help me!" and grabbed for the tassel. When she touched it, Jesus turned around. "Who touched me?" He asked. Oh no, she thought. She had been found out! She had to admit it. She was shaking but she had to tell him. "I touched you." The moment she said the words, she knew she was healed! Energy, relief, joy, strength filled her body. She didn’t care if she had to admit it! She was healed! He turned and looked at her. It was a look of uncompromising love, total, unconditional love. Overwhelming, breathtaking, inspiring love. Awesome, unforgettable love. She had never felt such love before. He said to her the words He says to all of us when we surrender totally. He said, "Courage daughter, your faith has saved you." But He didn’t have to say anything. It was all there - in His look. What a wonderful story of surrender and grace. And that’s it; that’s the whole story. We don’t know what happened to her. We don’t know if our friend Berenice became a disciple, following Jesus throughout the countryside, telling her story over and over again, or if she simply went back to her family, praising Him through her work, caring for her children, loving the people around her. But we do know one thing. Berenice was never the same again. Once we surrender totally and ask Christ to come into our lives, we are never ever the same. This week let me ask myself: have I surrendered? Have I given Him my life? What can I do today to give Him everything: my life, my work, my family, my worries? How can I be Berenice this week? Copyright ?1997 Arlington Catholic Herald, Inc. All rights reserved.

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