Did you know that some passages about Biblical women are “optional” at Mass? You can read about this and other ways women of the Bible are removed from our Sunday Liturgy of the Word here.
This -- the Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (B) -- Mark 5:25-34 recounts the story of “a woman afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve years,” who – equipped only with her great faith – musters the courage to make her way through the crowd to touch Jesus’ cloak and be healed. But many churchgoers won’t hear about her because her story is “optional.” Given the challenges that we face as individuals, families, communities, and as a world and Church it would be a grave injustice to all the faithful to omit this important part of the text. And we encourage you to reach out to your priest, pastor, or faith community leader, urging them to proclaim and preach on this important exchange.
The unnamed woman shows tremendous faith and courage. She knew deep down that there was more to life than suffering. And so, she steps out, at great personal risk and against social and religious norms, in the hope that she would be healed and finally find freedom from her suffering. We need this woman.
In her story, we might hear the story of those who are right now suffering sexual harassment and violence hoping that someone will believe them when they do speak out; the story of those who wander alone in the darkness of mental illness looking for support; the stories of women and men who with their children are fleeing violence and exploitation in search of a better life for their families; the story of children reaching out for the parents they’ve been separated from; the story of young LGBTQ people struggling to tell their families and friends who they really are; the stories of women of faith who seek to have a voice in our Church. We need to hear all these stories (and more) in this unnamed woman’s story. And those who suffer any kind of marginalization or oppression deserve her witness of conviction and faith that things could be different and her model of courage to step out. Most importantly, they deserve the healing and liberation that God intends for them and that was given to her.
Jesus also shows us the immeasurable power of compassionate presence and proximity to those who need us – regardless of who they are, under what circumstances they come to us, or what it might cost us to respond to them in love.
We need this example from Jesus. The victims of suffering and oppression need to know that there are Christ-like people who will listen to them, acknowledge them, believe them, love them, and help them. We who strive to be Christ-like people need to be reminded of this Jesus when others reach out to us in faith and hope for help, healing, or liberation. Like Jesus, we need to be willing to prioritize the human person in our midst over the social and religious constructs, customs, and norms of our time and respond to them in love.
And so, this week we invite you to reach out to your priest, pastor, or faith community leader. Remind them why it’s so important that this woman’s encounter with Jesus be proclaimed and preached about this upcoming Sunday.