In today’s Gospel, Mark 5: 21-43, a woman who has been ill for 12 years, exhausted her savings and experienced painful treatments to no avail, approaches Jesus quietly, hoping to simply touch the hem of His garment, knowing in faith, that she will be healed. And she is! Jesus turns around and asks: Who touched me? The disciples think he’s crazy to ask such a question when they were surrounded by a crowd of people so “thick” it was impossible not to rub against one another. Yet, Jesus knew that healing power had flowed out of Him. The woman who was healed and who would have been considered unclean because of her condition comes forward and acknowledges that she is the one who touched Him. In love and compassion, Jesus commends her for her faith, saying to her: “Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be cured of your affliction.”
Jesus waits, also, for you and I to approach Him in faith, unafraid to come forward. Jesus will not shame us, as others might do for being “unclean,” for being considered unworthy by some, by being ostracized and excluded by many. We may have even been treated badly, such as being told to “get outta here. You don’t belong here.” This woman knew that she was considered unclean and that anyone who touched her would also be labeled unclean and would need to submit to the legal ramifications of ignoring the Mosaic laws that applied to such individuals. Yet she approached Jesus!
To Jesus, what mattered were love, compassion, understanding and mercy. God is a loving God, a compassionate God, a kind God, a God of understanding and mercy. Legalism was not part of Jesus’ vocabulary or behaviors. Over and over again, Jesus challenged people of His day who adhered rigidly to ritual and laws at the expense of responding lovingly to human need. He does so today, also.
How do you and I relate to others? Are we slaves to rigid boundaries? Are we legalistic, denying others the compassion, the mercy, the love of God that dwells within us? Or do we, like Jesus, rise above legalism and challenge the rigid application of set rules/structures, playing it safe to look good in the eyes of authority outside of ourselves?