Have you ever felt that you were too sinful, too unworthy, or too far gone to receive the touch of Jesus and experience His healing love? Do you struggle with doubt, or feel tempted to believe that your sin is too great for you to deserve the love of God?
Have you ever felt so very tired as you struggle to suffer well? Sometimes our struggles can be so exhausting, physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally. They can wear us down, especially when they seem prolonged, with no visible end in sight.
When I am tempted to think I cannot endure a particular suffering, I always turn to Sacred Scripture and the account of the woman with a hemorrhage. The strength of her faith and her sheer tenacity strike me as so extraordinary and rousing. They stir me to hopefulness and allow me to recall the immensity of God’s love for me. Her story reminds me that I am not alone—I am always beneath the gaze of the God who loves me.
Here is the passage:
There was a woman afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve years. She 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. She had heard about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak. She said, “If I but touch his clothes, I shall be cured.” Immediately her flow of blood dried up. She felt in her body that she was healed of her affliction.
Jesus, aware at once that power had gone out from him, turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who has touched my clothes?”
But his disciples said to him, “You see how the crowd is pressing upon you, and yet you ask, ‘Who touched me?’”
And he looked around to see who had done it. The woman, realizing what had happened to her, approached in fear and trembling. She fell down before Jesus and told him the whole truth.
He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be cured of your affliction.”
—Mark 5: 25-34
In this gospel passage we encounter a woman who was desperately ill for twelve agonizing years. She had spent all she had on doctors who could not heal her. Instead of improving, she grew worse. Her illness made her unclean, defiled according to Mosaic law. The social isolation and painful humiliation of being cast out by her own family and community must have been a tremendous suffering.
She was not allowed to touch another human being, and if someone touched her, that person was considered unclean. Imagine suffering her physical ailment for twelve years—and being unable to experience or initiate the affectionate comfort of physical touch. What a sickening tragedy. Most likely she had been ostracized, cut off from her family and her community, and sent away to live in isolation.
The physical effects of her illness may have been chronic pain, extreme weakness, and other side effects brought about by her condition. She also suffered poverty after spending all she had, only to have her condition exacerbated.
Yet even under the most pitiable of circumstances, she managed to hope. She pursued that hope with tenacity. She probably mustered every bit of strength and energy she had left in order to go to Jesus in the street. She did not doubt. She believed.
She is an amazing testimony to the capacity of the human heart to hope.
“If I but touch his clothes, I shall be cured.”
She reaches out desperately as Jesus moves along in the crowded street. There is so much frenetic activity. Christ is being swept away to the house of Jairus to heal the man’s daughter, who has already died. The Apostles are trying to protect the Lord and direct the chaotic crowds. There is jostling and pushing as Jesus passes by. The crowd presses in on Him.
In the midst of it all, she is there, sick and miserable, but hoping, waiting, and believing.
I imagine this woman went completely unnoticed. Perhaps she was veiled, totally covered, in her humiliation. After all, she was not permitted contact with others. Yet as Jesus approaches, she somehow finds her way into the throng. She slips her hand into a space between all those pressing upon him.
It was a space made just for her. The Lord will always make a way. We struggle and lose hope when we fail to look for it.
There it is! She touches the tassel of His cloak! Her hand brushes against it in the middle of the multitudes. What are the chances that in this tremendous crowd she was able to push through to that space—the space made just for her? Could it have been an accident? No, it was written in time by the Lord Himself.
She knows full well she will be healed. All of the pain and suffering she has experienced because of this condition will be gone in an instant. All because she dared to hope and believe. All because she persevered in faith.
The Healing Love of Christ
She FEELS her own healing! And yet, she tries to slip away unnoticed. She was not lacking in gratitude. She was more likely hoping to leave in secret. Had she directly touched the Lord, or any of those crowding around her, Jewish law proclaimed that they, too, would be unclean.
How she must have wanted to celebrate this incredible miracle as she felt it happening, and as she recognized her own healing. She must have been bursting with joy, overwhelmed with gratitude, and feeling such relief at being liberated from her terrible circumstances. Yet her intention was to slip quietly away, so as not to bring dishonor on anyone else in the horde.
“Who touched me?”
The Lord looked out into the masses and asked who touched His clothing.
Jesus asked, not because He did not know, but because He knew precisely that it was this long-suffering daughter of His who had touched Him. He asked because he wanted a relationship with her.
She realized what had happened and approached in fear and trembling, falling down before her Creator, her Redeemer and her Lord. She told Him the truth.
Gently and lovingly he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be cured of your affliction.”
Jesus did not want her to slink away unnoticed. Neither did He want her to cower in fear. He loved her intimately and personally. Her humiliation was painful to Him, and her healing was joy to Him. Her faith and her belief were a consolation to our Savior.
Communicating His Love
Jesus wanted the woman with hemorrhage to know that His love for her was purposeful, profound, and intimate. He wanted to look into her eyes and communicate this love for her. Jesus wanted to show her that she was always held in the tender gaze of God, whether she realized it or not.
He not only gave her what she wanted and needed, but more. He restored her dignity to her, entered into relationship with her, and communicated his love for her, all by asking, “Who touched me?”
If she were the only one for whom He had to die, He would have died for her alone. In fact, He did die for her alone. He loves each of us with all of His love. His love is not just an abstract love for collective “humanity.” It is as personal, as intimate, and as individual as we are. It exists for each of us distinctively. This divine love is the answer to our deepest longings, the solution to our biggest problems, and the remedy to our greatest needs.
That is what it means to be loved by God. The Lord does not simply want to heal us. He wants to love us in relationship. He wants to heal us in relationship. He wants us to experience His love, His mercy, and His protection in relationship with Him.
Oh, beautiful soul, so beloved by your Lord, none of your sufferings escape Him. Your greatest joys, your biggest fears, your everyday struggles. He knows them all, even better than you know them yourself. His love for you is greater than any of them, and deeper than anything you can ever imagine.
Are you struggling to hope? Tempted to despair? Feeling overwhelmed and distraught about what your future holds? Your God already knows. You are not alone. You are beneath the gaze of God. Don’t lose hope. There is nothing our God cannot do. Remember the works of the Lord.
Your Space in the Crowd
We all get weary sometimes, and He understands that, too. Muster all your energy, your courage, and your strength, and follow Him out into the street like the afflicted woman. We do not need to worry about how we approach Him, so long as we do.
There is a space in the crowd made just for you. He opened it long before you knew you needed it, and He waits for you there. Reach out. Touch Him. Trust in the love He has for you, in relationship with Him.
Ask God here and now for the gift of loving Him fully and completely, with your entire being. Ask Him to help you overcome whatever holds you back from believing that you are precious to Him, that you are cherished, and that you reside in His unchanging love.
Oh, soul, sealed with His blood, He has loved you before all time. He loves you now in time, and He will love you at the end of time. Do you not feel it? Is it veiled from you right now?
Do you suffer the guilt of your sins, your backsliding, your depraved nature, and your lack of constancy? He knows. Our wills are so weak; His love for us is stronger than anything we can ever imagine. Our hearts, our emotions, and our feelings are so changeable; His love for us is not. You were made to love Him, and to know His love for you, in a relationship unlike any other.
Oh, precious soul, treasured by your Heavenly Creator, resolve this year to believe in the God who loves you; receive the graces He waits to give you; experience His healing love. Find your space in the crowd. Reach out! Hope! Believe!
Have you had a personal encounter with Christ, in which He healed you of a particular suffering?
Do you seek to grow in union with Our Lord through prayer?
Please share your story with us in the comments below!