Then suddenly a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his cloak, for she said to herself, ‘If I only touch his cloak, I will be made well.’ Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, ‘Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.’ And instantly the woman was made well. – Matthew 9:20-22
When I was young a severe anxiety disorder made my days an agony. After I had entered psychotherapy and worked hard for a couple of years, this illness was cured. The grueling fear and pain was gone, and I could relax and even hope. There are no words to express how happy that made me, how great was my gratitude – how it still moves me to this day. A new life was given to me, and I could go on and realize my dreams.
The hemorrhaging woman must have experienced that relief and joy as her affliction was lifted. I imagine her standing still in the street watching Jesus’ retreating back through tears after he has spoken with her and gone on. Others following him probably cast her dirty looks as they go by; she had been unclean and she has touched a Rabbi. But she would not have minded that, this outcast who had suffered such a long, secret, horrible debilitation. None of those who were so offended by her action could know the wonder of being made whole and free. Counter to all the expectations of her society, she could not make this Rabbi dirty. Instead he made her clean.
What had he said that gave her the trust to reach out, out of her secret suffering, for the fringe of his cloak? What promise was in his words that filled her, in her secret torment, with a desperate hope? Through everything her culture taught, in spite of her sense of herself as an unclean, despicable sinner, she reached out for him. And she was healed.
This is what salvation looks like. It is not about being assured of a place in some paradise beyond the grave. It is about being freed into life and community from the isolation and suffering of illness, dis-ease, and oppression. The Saving One of Israel, the Messiah, this is what he is about. He is a miracle, and he happens to the afflicted.
Dare we hope to be salvaged from our terror, our suffering and our secret outcast status into abundant life in community? Dare we risk? Dare we reach out for the fringe of Jesus’ cloak as it passes us by? And, having found our way into the joy and peace of healing, dare we extend ourselves to others who also might need salvation? Dare we believe that they cannot make us dirty, but that we can make them clean? For this is what it means to be the people of the Saving One of Israel. This is what it means to be the Body of Christ.
Laurie Gudim is a religious iconographer and liturgical artist, a writer and lay preacher living in Fort Collins, CO. See her work online at Everyday Mysteries With others she manages a website for the Diocese of Colorado highlighting congregations’ creative ministries: Fresh Expressions Colorado