Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

Ave Maria!

Twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost - 4 November AD 2012
“A woman who was troubled with an issue of blood twelve years,
came behind him, and touched the hem of his garment.”

The Healing of a bleeding women,
Rome, Catacombs of Marcellinus and Peter

Ordinary of the Mass
Mass Text - Latin
Mass Text - English

    The early Fathers of the Church identify the woman with a hemorrhage in today's Gospel as being from Ethiopia; that is to say that she was not a Jew, and that there is an important symbolic meaning to be found in the fact that she sought a cure from Christ, and particularly in that she seems to have diverted our Lord's attention away from His ministry to the Jewish people for at least a few moments.[3]  This is a theme that recurs throughout the New Testament:  Christ came as promised to bring salvation to the Jews, but found a much greater reception among those who were not His chosen people.  Just a few weeks ago we heard the parable about the wedding feast, where very few of the invited guests attended, and the king filled up his celebration with strangers from the highways and byways.[4]

    Parables like this are very important in that they serve to remind us that our own salvation is not guaranteed.  We cannot take it for granted that just because we have been baptized we will go to heaven.  We cannot just assume that because we are Catholics everything will be taken care of.  In a sense, that was the sin of the Jews who rejected Christ; they had grown complaisant.  At least in spiritual matters they felt it was enough to have been born a Jew and to keep the outward prescriptions of the Law of Moses.  They wanted someone to fight the Romans.  They wanted someone who would re-establish the Kingdom of Israel, and were not ready to follow Christ in the quest for the kingdom of heaven.

    All too often, Catholics make the same mistake, paying only minimal attention to our Lord and to the things of heaven, assuming that these will take care of themselves while they devote most of their time to worrying about the concerns of the world.  “Their god is their belly, their glory is in their shame, they mind earthly things.”[5]  What does Saint Paul call them?  He doesn't call them Catholics, or Christians, or whatever, he calls them “enemies of the Cross of Christ.”[6]    That is very important to understand:  One doesn't have to attack the Faith of the Cross to be its enemy.  One doesn't have to go out and preach against Christ and His Truth to be His enemy; it is enough merely to be complaisant.  One can be an enemy of Christ merely by being lukewarm in devotion to Him; merely by putting the things of God in second place in life.  One can be an enemy of Christ merely by standing back and looking on while others attack His revealed Truth, or His Church;  one can be His enemy by standing idly by and doing nothing.

    We are called on to imitate this Ethiopian woman by actively seeking Christ, overcoming any obstacles that might be between Him and us, so that we can be close to Him; so that we can literally touch Him in the Mass and in His Sacraments.  By doing that, just as our Lord healed this woman of her long lasting illness, our Lord will “reform the body of our lowness, making us over in the body of His glory.”[7]

    Now, there is another important symbolism to be seen in this woman and her approach to Christ.  She seemed to think that she could approach Him secretly, without His even knowing about it.  That, of course, is impossible.  Now we don't know her motive for this.  Maybe she was a sinner and didn't feel worthy to touch Him.  Maybe she was just humble and didn't want to take up His valuable time with her problems.  Or maybe she was proud, and didn't want to have to spend a lot of her valuable time with Him!  In any event, she was trying to do something that just couldn't be done.  “Power flowed forth from Him,”[8] Saint Mark tells us, and He felt it.   Even in this big crowd, He knew that some one specific person had touched Him and been healed.

    Likewise, our Lord knows (and cares) that we are out here; each and every single one of us.  And He wants each of us to approach Him; not secretly, but openly.  If we are sinners we are to Confess our guilt to Him in the Sacrament of Confession before touching His Body in Holy Communion.  If we are humble, we are to be assured that He has time to spend, and wants to spend it with us.  And if we are proud, then all the more do we have to sit down and speak with Him in prayer until we recognize our own insignificance.

    Finally, we should recognize what it was that saved this poor woman with the hemorrhage:  “Thy faith has made thee whole,”  is what the Lord said to her.[9]  “Faith.”  Faith: the knowledge of God—the belief in everything that God has revealed to us—and the avoidance of everything that contradicts it.  Faith: the virtue that leads to Hope—a childlike confidence in divine providence; that God will take care of our needs on earth while we prepare for heaven.  Faith: the virtue that leads to Charity; the love of God.  Faith: the virtue that leads us to do good things for the love of God and fellowman.  We should recognize this Faith in the Ethiopian woman, and strive, with the grace of God, to cultivate it in ourselves.

    In summary:  We must recognize that salvation is not guaranteed, and we must work hard to be numbered among the elect, paying more attention to the things of heaven than to those of earth.   We must remember to draw close to Christ, anxious to spend our time with Him.  And we must have Faith, for ultimately it is the Faith that will make us whole.



[1]   Gospel:  Matthew ix:18-26 (verse 20)

[3]   Cf. Homily of Saint Jerome, Book 1 of Commentaries on Matthew, on ch 9.  (Third lesson at Matins)

[4]   Mass of the Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost (transferred to Monday this year because of the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary).

[5]   Epistle: Philippians iii:17-iv:3

[6]   Ibid.

[7]   Ibid.

[8]   Mark v:30  the Douay reads “virtue proceeded from him.”

[9]   Gospel:  Matthew ix:18-26

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