September 30, 2014
The good news today is given to us in Mark 5:25-29.
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.
This woman was ritually impure; it was believed that he impurity was transmitted to anyone who came into contact with her. She could not have helped but feel unworthy — unworthy of touch, of affection, of compassion, of love. So often I feel unworthy as well because I am impure, marked by flaws and tainted by concealed desires. If I am unworthy, how can I be loved? That’s why it pains me so much to join in the liturgical prayer at Mass, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof.” Even though that is followed by, “but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.” It makes it sounds like Jesus’ love for me is conditional, threatened by my unworthiness. I’ve spent years trying to unlearn that and believe instead that Jesus’ love for me in unconditional.
In those years I’ve turned to others to cure my impurity — therapists, spiritual authors, retreat directors, priests. They have all been useful, but still I felt unworthy until like this woman I approached Jesus himself as a last resort instead of first. Despite her unworthiness this woman reached out to Jesus and touched his cloak. It was a brazen act, but she was desperate, desperate to be healed, to be accepted and loved. In that touch, that intimacy with the person of Jesus, she was healed. The risk she took in touching Jesus paid off immediately. Her sense of unworthiness withered so that compassion and love could take its place. Her suffering ceased; she could actually feel it in her body.
My worthiness is not something I can earn. It is simply because I am, simply because I am a child of God. I can always approach Jesus; I can always embrace him regardless of the state of my sinfulness, my impurity. Each time I will be healed; I will be suffused with his love and compassion, his acceptance and peace. It’s a two-way street that requires both me and Jesus. Shea writes in Eating With the Bridegroom, “[H]er interior openness to divine love is what is important. Jesus’ desire to manifest divine, compassionate love is matched by her readiness to receive it.” Jesus will respond to my openness to his love and compassion. First, I have to let go of this sense of unworthiness. I am always worthy of Jesus’ love; he just waits for me to reach out to him, to touch him. He’ll do the rest, healing me of my afflictions, my impurities.