Sunday Gospel reflections: Jesus’ transforming touch

Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

"Raising of the Daughter of Jairus" by Paolo Veronese (1528—1588). Photo: Web Gallery of Art/Public Domain

Most of us can’t imagine circumstances that would prohibit us from entering our parish church. But a Jewish woman of Jesus’ time who was menstruating was prohibited by Jewish law from participating in communal prayer, in violation of the blood taboo, rendering all who came in contact with her unclean and in need of purification. The woman in today’s Gospel has endured exclusion from her religious community for 12 years, due to her untreatable gynecological problem. By touching Jesus, she renders him impure according to Jewish law.

That is just the first taboo we see here. The second is the death taboo: touch a dead body and you are also rendered impure. You will have to undergo ritual purification in order to participate in the community’s life and celebrations. Touching the child’s body renders Jesus impure. 

Yet in those touches, worlds are transformed. The woman is healed of her disease; she may now rejoin community life. The girl is raised to life, restored to the family table, where she will soon blossom into womanhood.

Such is the new world that Jesus inaugurates. He overcomes every barrier and limitation — sickness, sin, gender, nationality, and death itself — so that we all can enter into communion with each other and with God. He offers life —fullness of life with each other and with God — here and in the life to come.

— Bernadette Gasslein


Wisdom 1:13–15; 2:23–24

Psalm 30:2, 4, 5–6, 11, 12, 13

2 Corinthians 8:7, 9, 13–15

Mark 5:21–43 or 5:21–24, 35B–43

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