The Gospel reading today is from Mark -- the story of the woman who reached out and touched the hem of Jesus' robe. When I first read St. Ignatius' Spiritual Exercises (or, let me say, a *portion* of it) in college I was intrigued by the idea of entering into the Gospel stories as a way of making them come alive. This happened to be the first passage that I chose, and I can still remember the whole experience: the feelings of despair as she spent her last bit of money on yet another doctor who could do nothing for her... trudging down the alleyway feeling alone, abandonned and forgotten by God... and then turning the corner and seeing a crowd of people shouting and clamoring to see... Someone. She asked a person on the fringes of the crowd what was going on, and heard that Jesus was there.
I imagined what it would be like to push my way through the loud, jostling, (sweaty? ewww) crowd, all crying out for Jesus to heal them... she couldn't quite make her way to Jesus, but every now and then she was able to catch just a glimpse of His robe. I imagined the faith she had, believing that if she just managed to swipe her fingers along the hem of His robe, that would be all that was needed, and her desire to remain small and hidden... so she made a desperate push, reached out, and just barely touched His robe.
BAM! She knew instantly she was healed.
I pictured myself thrilled, rejoicing that I was healed, and then being content to stop walking and just let the crowd move on past me... and then the crowd stops. Everyone starts murmuring something, but I'm too happy with what has just happened to really care... until I hear Him say, "Who touched Me?"...
Anyone who has EVER been called to the front of the class by a teacher because of some infraction knows the feeling: the cold, sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach, the prickly feeling on the back of your neck, and the knowledge that this is NOT going to go away until you step forward and "fess up."
I imagined how terrified she must have felt, as all eyes were on her, approaching Jesus. Would He be angry? Obviously, she thought He would be, because she falls on her face before Him and spills out the whole story in an attempt to explain why she did what she did.
What thrills me the most is that He would not let her remain a "nobody." She wanted to remain small and hidden, have her little private miracle, and go home. She wanted to lose herself in the sea of humanity crowding around Jesus because she didn't feel like she deserved a hearing.
Jesus noticed her. She was not a "nobody" to Him. He drew her out to commend her for her faith, and to give her the one-on-one experience with God that she didn't think she was allowed to have.
He notices each one of us.
I am not just another one of the billions of people clamoring for His attention today.
He sees me, and knows me by name.
[and as an extra bonus for moms of little ones, He **KNOWS** what it's like to be jostled, crowded, and besieged from all sides by everyone who thinks that his need is the most pressing at that moment. That comforts me in our most hectic moments here at Chez Ouiz]
The second reading -- from Hebrews -- is another biggie for me. Hebrews 12:1-4
"Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith. For the sake of the joy that lay before him he endured the cross, despising its shame, and has taken his seat at the right of the throne of God. Consider how he endured such opposition from sinners, in order that you may not grow weary and lose heart. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood."
There are so many things to focus on in this passage for me, but my favorites are:
"we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses" -- the saints and angels are watching us, cheering us on and praying for us [something I need to meditate on a LOT more often]... and
"keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith." The NIV translation that I'm used to says, "let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith." Everytime I read this I tend to make it more personal -- He's the author and perfecter of MY faith. He's the one that started this whole thing in my life, and if He doesn't continue to work in me then I am sunk.
Wow. It's not very often that I get such a grand slam of readings, but I'm thrilled that it happened today!