The Outsiders

The Scripture readings for this week are full of meaning as Jesus continues to move around to all the towns and villages,teaching in their synagogues,proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom,and curing every disease and illness.

The Gospels relate the parable of healing the woman who had haemorrhaged/menstruated continuously  for 12 years . 

By Jewish Law she would have been considered unclean and Jesus would by Jewish Law be defiled to even touch her. 

Jesus meets this woman on the way to see Jairus daughter who has died. 

The week continues with the healing of the mute demoniac ( see one of my previous posts for reflection on this).

He bemoans the fact that the harvest is rich and the labourers few and mindful of this He then summons his Twelve disciples and gives them authority to do the same healing work.

He tells them He is sending them like sheep into the midst of wolves; so they need to be shrewd as serpents and simple as doves. 

Perhaps he is warning them that they will experience compassion fatigue in the days to come !!

Jesus is surrounded by people who are on the margins, outsiders in their community and culture who need healing and restoration to life.
He faces questioning and criticism and laughter and mockery.

The ones who come to him in true faith, a trust that sees beyond religious rules and communal judgment and regulations are the ones he has time for. 

The dead girl's father Jairus is  desperate enough to trust that all his daughter needs is the touch of Jesus.

The woman with the haemorrhage on the other hand, knows she's not allowed to hope that Jesus will touch her, but  all the powerful institutions, barricades and rules that have isolated and pushed her away are not enough to keep her from touching the hem of Jesus.

In James Tissot's painting on the left you can just about see the outstretched hand of the woman in the lower centre.

It makes me wonder what that touch must have felt like to her when she probably had not even felt the touch of a human hand for so long !! 
Jesus did not call her “woman” but  “daughter, it is your faith that has healed you.”  How wonderful she must have felt  being loved  as part of his family.
This must have outraged the religious leaders in the crowd.

I guess all of us at some time or another have found ourselves as outsiders in a family or  community, or maybe we are outsiders to ourselves!!
Many of us will know what it feels like to find our way back, or to hear the invitation that Jesus offers us, to return and be restored? 

Some of us may have had the experience of slipping alongside a crowd, hoping not to be noticed, thinking that there may be a "way in" ,  or may know people who would love to come to church but feel they can't because of "the rules" or the whispers of the insiders who would act against them.

I think of the times in my Church that I have heard "the rules" invoked as a reason to keep others out.
I have heard  many times in my own Church the voices of "insiders" who  try to justify  their beliefs that the marginal status of "outsiders" is somehow deserved.
It's significant that no one notices the woman on the edge of the crowd, at least no one except Jesus. 

That tells us something about the people God notices in our own time and place. God is still speaking to us today, calling us to participate in the mental and spiritual healing of others and the bringing back of those who are beyond our borders and boundaries.

The still-speaking God keeps challenging our comfort zones, those areas of protection and comfort, of assumptions and privilege and invades our so called "sacred space" when it has become nothing more than a private comfort zone and a barrier to keep others out .

The characters in this story who are the "insiders", the owners of the rules and the boundaries are the ones who are truly sick and in need of healing. 

Jesus wanted the religious leaders to be more sensitive and vulnerable to human relationship. Perhaps he wanted them to see that they could only be  healers to others by acknowledging how wounded and scarred they were themselves in human relationship. 
He wanted them to see how they were pushing people with physical, social, spiritual, or relational sickness away when they should have been touching them.

Jesus spells out clearly  something about the nature of God, and he uses Scripture to back up his teaching when he quotes the prophet Hosea: "I desire mercy, not sacrifice" and today's  Psalm (145) reminds us "The Lord is gracious and merciful,slow to anger and of great kindness.The Lord is good to all."and compassionate toward all his works.

Sometimes I have felt that my confidence in the power of God has found its limits and  I have heard "the crowd" mocking and laughing at my Christian hopes and vision.

Yet I know that in times of rejection and despair my faith and the faith of others has often allowed me to stretch into unexpected and grace-filled places. 

God wants mercy, and then He himself shows mercy. But his mercy and compassion seem to mess up the orderly system that's in place, and it continues to mess up orderly systems to this day because we still have not acted on the message He gave us.

Perhaps compassion messes up our public life, too, with its laws and traditions and compassion messes up our culture, which digs in its heels and tells us that we somehow deserve what we have and don't really need to change our systems to make sure that the "have nots"  get enough compassion and justice. 

Where the marginal people are, is where we find Jesus throughout. 

This brief episode in the life of Jesus, is rooted in the faith  that God wills wholeness, health, and harmony for all of God’s beautiful and good creation. 

In Jesus, all that wholeness, healing, and harmony draw, and continue to draw me to want to touch the hem of His garment and to trust I will be always be healed, not necessarily in a physical way... 

the reality is we don't always get healed of our wounds, but like Henri Nouwen I pray I may be able to be a "wounded healer" for others.

I need to always try to respond to outsiders and to reach out to them, not ignore them and certainly not treat them with contempt.

When I do feel burn out then it is perfectly OK to withdraw and take time out and that is my time to touch the hem of Jesus and be restored !!  His compassion and mercy is  for me too !!

If you get the time this is a wonderful article ( and not too long!) from The Washington Post by Tim Muldoon.a theologian  from Boston College on the spirituality of health care.

Catherine of Genoa, 15th century mystic

All this I saw as clearly as if I touched them, but I cannot find the words to express them. These things that I speak about work within me in secret and with great power.

The Feminine Mystic, Lynn Deming, ed., Pilgrim Press.

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