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Divine contact with faith, heals and makes one clean.
St. Augustine puts forth the fact that ‘the Old Testament is the New Testament concealed and the New Testament is the Old Testament revealed. This can be profoundly examined and understood especially through the various instances where our Lord Jesus heals people. One such instance is in the gospel of St. Mark 5:21-34. The Lord has revealed Himself as the word in the Old Testament and in the New Testament He reveals His Divinity through His Incarnation. Christ Incarnate is the sole saviour of the world. And what He means by saving is aptly described by Pope St. John Paul II, who writes in his book, ‘Crossing the Threshold of Hope, pp 70 “…To save means to liberate from radical, ultimate evil…Through the work of the Redeemer death ceases to be an ultimate evil; it becomes subject to the power of life…And, therefore, the world cannot be a source of salvation for man. Only God saves, and He saves the whole of humanity in Christ.” The woman in Mark 5:21-34; who suffered 12 strenuous and shameful years because of an infirmity, suddenly finds herself in close proximity to salvation. The one who is an outcast to her our people, is in search of The One who knew rejection from the very womb of his virgin mother. The woman who was branded unclean, knew that by faith in Christ; who was the closest to those who were unclean, will be surely be healed by Him. The Law of the Old Covenant in the book of Leviticus 15:19-30; concerning ritually unclean women did not dilute this unnamed woman’s courage and conviction in the Messiah. She did not fail to not only acknowledge but also believe in His presence among the chosen people of God on earth, in that time of history. She spent a lot of her money in various medical care but in vain. So it is not her trust in another stint of therapeutic cure, but rather, her belief in making personal contact with the Saviour, that healed her.
What’s really unique about this encounter that we need undoubtedly pay attention to, is how our Lord ‘brings to life’ the heart of the Law given to Moses by God, for His people’s government and righteousness sake. Leviticus 15 enlists the norms about uncleanness among women going through their cycle in the month and how they are to be purified, by the Mosaic rituals, based on the duration of the uncleanness. The matter is of serious concern because whoever comes in physical contact with this unclean person automatically becomes unclean and needs spiritual purification. Until then, the unclean person would not be permitted to have, proximity with God’. The Lord on the other hand, who is the Law Himself, given to Moses, written on the tablets, has now been touched by one who is unclean. And the Law demands of the Jew, now defiled by one who who is herself contaminated, to be set apart as unclean, until purified by the rituals of the Law. But is it so in the case of our Lord? No. Christ, shows that He has truly come to set us free from the bondage of sin and death. He publicly choses to justify the action of the unclean woman of approaching God in her ‘defiled state’, which is ‘truly right and just, our duty and our salvation’ (Roman Missal – Eucharistic Prayer for Masses for Various Needs and Occasions – English translation formally approved in 1995) to believe in Jesus as our Lord and saviour, and that He alone can gives us salvation and freedom from every sickness, disease, infirmity and death. And that no Law on earth or in heaven can bind a believer from coming forward to receive his bounty from Jesus the Divine Healer. The Lord completely overturns a possible scandalous situation into a mighty manifestation of faith and salvation.
The woman who lived more than a decade in a state of defilement, showed immense faith and confession of that faith, for scripture says she kept on repeating, “For if I touch his garments, I will be healed” Mark 5:28. It was not mere determination to approach Jesus to touch at-least his garment, but it was more of her faith that she will surely be healed if she touched the hem of the Lord’s garment. That is precisely what she was constantly assuring her mind. Sickness, disease or near death situations can numb our faith by letting our mind over power us. It happens to the best of us. But a faithful and repeated confession of God’s word will act as a weapon against the blows of doubt and anxiety. The question which the Lord asked His disciples; when He knew someone touched Him, was not simply a logical one, as the disciples had thought, because the Lamb of God was surrounded by a large crowd of people, pushing and brushing each other’s way to follow him on his way. The question which was a result of Him perceiving that power had gone forth from Him – Mark 5:30, was infinitely more significant than just ‘who touched me’. It meant, who manifested this mountainous faith in Me, this impenetrable belief in Me. Who defied society, risking excommunication and a possible life of solitude for the sake of salvation? But of-course, as the disciples were themselves caught in the rush of the crowd around our Lord, they could not instantly fathom what their Master was inquiring? The Lord, instead, was as though, eager and excited to see the child who came believing in the Son of the Father.
Fear of the world will always suppress faith. Fear of God will always destroy fear contracted from the world. The enemy – the devil; uses fears, sicknesses, diseases, infirmities, anxieties, doubts, guilt, low self-esteem, and so on as heavy blows upon the faith of the believer. The Son of man has “overcome the world” – John 16:33, and therefore has brought salvation into this world. In other words, true and real freedom from the most radical and ultimate evil – death, as John Paul II reminded us. The unclean woman was healed because of her faith, as the Lord affirmed it to her Himself, by saying, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease” Mark 5:34. The world today is repeatedly attacked by evil in various forms. The most current being the coronavirus pandemic. All of humanity has to avoid social contact, stay sanitised, take necessary precautions of personal hygiene, in order to stop the chain of infection. The faithful face a catastrophic – temporary unavailability of the sacraments, especially the Holy Eucharist. Nonetheless, the Lord, reminds us, as well as, assures us gently, as He did the woman in this passage of scripture, of the gift of salvation which He has given us freely. Though the woman approached Jesus with trembling and fear of being reprimanded, was surprisingly received with compassion by the Saviour in whom she so firmly believed, with acceptance of not only her faith but also her public act of faith. In the same manner, may all who suffer, irrespective of its tenure, may we never shy to touch Jesus in His flesh, through worthy reception of the holy communion and in spirit through the other sacraments. And when in a time of social lock-down, may we do so worthily, faithfully, fearlessly, through spiritual communion and prayer. The Lord is with us, until the end of time – Matthew 28:20. Believe and work out your salvation.