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The Woman with the Hemorrhage
Gospel Reflection for Tuesday, January 31, 2023: Mark 5:21-43
It’s only January, yet so far this year I’ve been in the hospital three times—twice for ER visits. The last time I was in the ER the doctor looked at me gravely and said, “If you don’t have a blood transfusion immediately, you’ll die within two days.”
That’s not something I ever wanted to hear from a physician.
Today’s gospel reading recounts the story of the 12-year-old girl on the verge of death, and the woman who had been hemorrhaging for as long as that child had been alive. The parallel between the 12-year-old girl and the 12 years of bleeding is a topic I’ve written about before. In this reflection I want to focus on what it truly means to touch the hem of God’s robe.
Jesus, the Divine Physician, is always longing to heal us, in ways both obvious and subtle. It’s up to us to ask, and to have true faith in His healing graces.
It’s also up to us to recognize miracles when they happen.
Sometimes miracles do indeed occur in blatant and tremendous ways. The bleeding woman in Mark 5 knew the instant her hemorrhage stopped; she could feel the miracle of Jesus’ touch coursing through her veins. Often, however, the shift is subtle, and it’s up to us to recognize God’s work in our lives.
I’ve been suffering for the past six weeks, weakened and terrified. My constant prayer has been a mediation on Mark 5:25-34.
Jesus, help me to learn how to reach out to you, to touch You, to allow You to touch me.
I’ve learned two valuable lessons through my ordeal—an ordeal which, thanks to the grace of God, is now over. The first is that if we have true faith, God always provides. The details of my recent health crisis are far too many to recount in a short gospel reflection, but I can say that multiple miracles peppered my entire journey. From helping me safely reach the ER one harrowing night (the ER was over two hours away) to providing me with an exceptional surgeon who prayed with my husband and I before wheeling me into the OR, to the support of my family and friends, my Divine Physician surrounded me at all times.
Touch the hem of God’s robe. Pray, and pray again. Pray without ceasing.
As I meditated on Mark 5:25-34, I prayed for a true miracle: To draw close to Him, and to stay alive. And, in His graciousness, Jesus provided me with the miracle I was asking for. Miracles aren’t limited to obscure texts in the Bible or rumors of something that happened to someone somewhere at some time. Miracles happen every day—to all of us. We just have to look, and see.
At one point in my recent health journey, my hemoglobin level was down to a critical 5.3 (the normal range is 11.0 to 15.7). Even after the necessary blood transfusion, it was only at a 7.2. The hematologist told me that I’d have to be up to at least a 9.0 in order to have surgery—which (miraculously) had been scheduled for the following week. If I couldn’t have surgery in a week’s time, I’d have to wait for the next opening—at the end of February.
And I knew I’d never live until the end of February at the rate I was going.
I needed a true, authentic miracle.
Touch the hem of His robe.
Hemoglobin levels, the hematologist explained to my husband and I, take four to six weeks to rebuild. “Can I go from a 7.2 to a 9.0 in just one week?” I asked apprehensively.
“Well …” the hematologist began, looking skeptical. “Technically, it’s not impossible. But it is improbable. I have to be honest and tell you it’s not likely that your level will get that high in just a week.”
Touch the hem of God’s robe …
I went home and prayed. And prayed again. My entire family continued to pray for me. My friends and co-authors of Missio Dei were praying; my spiritual sisters at Hope’s Garden were in constant vigil; my parish had me on their prayer chain. I’d had to cancel the appointments for all my spiritual direction clients, and they were all understanding—and all praying for me.
So many prayers, so many supplications, such faith abounding from every corner of my life.
A mere four days later, I had my hemoglobin checked again.
9.7! Not just the required 9.0, but fortifying points above and beyond, in only four days time.
My surgeon told me that sort of increase in so short of a time was absolutely remarkable. I responded by telling him it was Mark 5:25-34. Understanding then that I was a Christian, the exceptional surgeon Jesus had found for me let me know that he’d pray for me before, and during, surgery.
What I discovered along this journey of sacred suffering and redemptive renewal is that, if we merely ask, Jesus indeed provides in bountiful ways. From the love of my family and friends, to the miraculous way my husband found just the right surgeon, to the triumphant rise in hemoglobin levels, Jesus was there. He allowed me not only to touch the hem of His garment, but He wrapped me thoroughly in His robe.
And that’s the ultimate message of Mark 5. When we merely touch the hem of God’s robe He turns around, picks us out of the crowd, and embraces us. He asks, “Who touched me?” not because He doesn’t know, but because He wants us to step forward in further faith. He wants us to say, “I—it is I, Lord. I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed” (Matt. 8:8). Jesus will then embrace us, wrap us in His healing protection, and provide us with all we need.