I’m unclean, and the world shuns me.
I crave the need of human touch, but my affliction keeps me separate, hidden away in the shadows, sure in the knowledge that if I were to touch others they would become unclean too. Although at least they would have the satisfaction of ritual cleansing in the temple. Washing away the curse I placed upon them.
But not I, nothing can wash away the pain and the humiliation that I feel. None of the doctors with the expensive pills and potions or healing chants and rituals can make a difference. And I should know. I’ve paid them enough over the last 12 years. With nothing to show for it, other than an empty pocket. And I’m coming to realise that I will forever have to bear the burden of punishment of sin, I no longer have the energy to care whether my own or for the sins of my father and his father before him. Hope of normality, of a husband, of children, of a house where I can proudly invite guests, has long since ebbed away, leaving my heart as empty as my pocket.
They say a miracle worker is walking through the town. That he talks of the wonders of God as if he knows him, explaining his Kingdom in simple stories. That he is capable of casting out demons, even hundreds all at once, giving blind people their sight and calming storms. That he has healed a Roman centurion’s servant just by saying the word. There are even rumours that he brought Widow Sarah’s son back to life. But what would he want with me. They say he has actually touched a man with leprosy and cured him. But I feel too much shame to ask him to heal me. Too many people have spurned me in the past. But there is something about him that gives me hope. A small spark somewhere, deep inside, that maybe, just maybe, if he is as powerful as they say he is, if he is as caring as they say he is, that he might just take pity on me too.
I suppose it is worth one last chance. I can see him up ahead, just catch glimpses of him through the crowd. It looks like he is talking to someone important. A local official maybe. Sigh. I’m not like him. I’m not worthy of the miracle man’s time. But maybe, just maybe, if I can get near enough, he might see me. Maybe that will be enough, if he looks at me, spots me, in the crowd.
I drag my cloak around me for protection from the crowd, to keep my face hidden. Those who know me will cower away if they see me, in their fear of uncleanliness. And I need to get through the crowd. To catch up with the miracle man. The crowd is buzzing with excitement, they think that Jairus has asked Jesus to heal his daughter as she is very sick. Apparently he is making his way to his house now to see if there is anything that he can do. I’m not sure I am ever going to make it through this crowd, and if I do, I know that I don’t have the courage to ask him to heal me. Not if that important looking fellow was Jairus. His daughter is far more worthy than me.
As the crowd are hurrying along, I am swept along with them. And I can see him just up ahead. He doesn’t seem to be hurrying like the crowd. Walking slowly and talking with his friends. He doesn’t seem to sense the urgency of those surrounding him. He is just up ahead. A brief glimpse of this holy man. Maybe if I can just stretch out and touch the hem of his cloak that will be enough. And in that moment, as I catch the edge of his garment the world stops still. Silence stills my ears. I am aware of nothing but the power of this man flowing into me. A deep feeling of love, restoration of my dignity, of healing. Its magnitude and intensity is like nothing I have ever experienced before and it scares me. I grab my hand back and hide away unnoticed into the crowd.
When suddenly I am aware of the miracle man, this Jesus, piercing gaze upon me. “Who touched me?” he asks. I shrink away from his eyes. He knows what I have done. “Who touched me?”
Those near him all deny it. But of course it wasn’t them. My heart beats faster, as I realise the magnitude of what I have done. Me, the unclean one, touched a holy man. Made him unclean too. Hindered him in his healing of the important man’s daughter.
What a relief his friends are making light of it, they tell him that there are so many people in the crowd that everyone is bumping and jostling him. And I feel that I can draw breath again.
But Jesus won’t let it go. He says it again, I don’t look up but I can feel his penetrating gaze upon me, he must be angry, “Someone touched me, I know that power has gone out of me”. What if he no longer has enough power to heal the girl? What have I done? Trembling with fear I slowly stumble towards him, my earlier boldness has long since dissolved, and I fall at his feet, not worthy of speaking with a man, especially a holy man such as this. But as I slowly lift my eyes to his face, his eyes don’t hold the accusation that I deserve, they look on me with compassion and love and he beckons me to my feet. He holds out his hand to me and raises me up. Me, the one whom society shuns, in the presence of the holy man. And so faltering I share my story with him. How in touching his cloak I have been healed. And as he continues to smile at me and welcome me into his presence somehow his eyes communicate that even I am worthy of his love and attention. That I am just as loved by God as the rich man and his daughter. He calls me his daughter, not even my father or mother have wanted to acknowledge me these last few years. And he sends me on my way, healed. He tells me to go in peace. And I do feel peace for the first time in what feels like eternity. But I also feel joy and love and excitement. And I know that life will never be the same again.
Poem by Malcolm Guite
The whole round world, in Greek the total cosmos,
Is all encompassed in this loving word;
Not just the righteous, right on, and religious
But every one of whom you’ve ever heard,
And all the throng you don’t know or ignore,
For everyone is precious in his sight,
Chosen and cherished, loved, redeemed, before
The circling cosmos ever saw the light.
He set us in the world that we might flourish,
That his beloved world might live through us.
We chose instead that all of this should perish
And turned his every blessing to a curse
And now he gives himself, as life and light,
That we might choose in him to set things right.
Reflection Based on Mark 5:25-34