20150628 Ordinary 13 B

We know that if a person was sick in ancient times that person was ostracized from the community. This was especially true if a person had leprosy but almost all illnesses resulted in separation from the community. Separation from the community prevented the person from earning a wage and therefore resulted in a level of poverty for the person and their family.
The woman in today’s Gospel was sick for twelve years. She went to professional physicians rather than the folk healers. She spent all that she had on the many physicians that she saw but only grew worse. She must have been in the elite class of citizens to have the money to spend on the physicians during a twelve year period of time.
Jesus healed many people during his ministry to restore them and their families to the community. The healings were usually a result of someone coming to Jesus or of friends and family coming on behalf of the person or actually bringing the person to him. Jesus would heal the person and forgive their sins.
In today’s Gospel reading we hear about a time when a person was healed based on that person’s belief without any action by Jesus. You can imagine the disciple’s disbelief when Jesus asked “Who touched me?” With all the crowds of people pushing and shoving, trying to get close to Jesus, it could be anyone. But this was a different touch. It was not a casual touch of someone who passing by on their way to other things. This was the touch of someone who believed because Jesus felt power leave him.
Let’s take a look at the events leading up to this point. The woman was in a state of despair; she had tried everything for twelve years and was worse than when she started. In addition, she spent all that she had seeking help from the medical institutions of that day.
She was considered unclean so she could not enter the temple to worship and everyone avoided her. She was an outcast of society. The woman did not even want to approach Jesus due to her condition. In the depths of despair, she touches the hem of Jesus’ robe seeking healing; more for her soul to overcome the desperation and loneliness she felt than for her physical condition. The act of touching Jesus’ garment was filled with faith that she would be healed like so many others that Jesus helped. It was her only hope for a normal life.
As usual with Jesus, the woman received more than she expected. She received healing and forgiveness. Jesus said to her, “Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be cured of your affliction.” Jesus restored her to the community as a whole person who could be respected as an equal who was able to worship in the temple, mingle with others and once again be happy.
We are very much like the woman in today’s Gospel. All afflictions are not necessarily physical. The afflictions that we suffer today are more social and deal with our relationships with one another.
We are broken in our hopelessness. Our lives are filled with shame and fear; fear of what our neighbor will do to us or fear of what the authorities will do to us. We live in a world that respects no one; a world that is full of hatred for anyone who different than us.
People of color know that contempt and live in constant fear. Unarmed African American and Latino men from Ferguson to New York to Pasco Washington to Seattle live in fear because of the color of their skin. They seem to be outcasts like the woman in the Gospel. The real issue is a lack of respect within our hearts for the dignity of another person who is a child of God. This lack of respect is rampant in our world today. This affliction seems to have grown significantly in the past few years.
From the Middle East where a person is martyred for being a Christian; to Charleston South Carolina where nine people were martyred because of their color; to the neighbor where we live, there are people filled with hate and disrespect for everyone but themselves.
Our lives don’t have to be filled with hatred toward another person because of their color, cultural background, religion or sexual preference. We may disapprove of their actions or beliefs but we must still treat each person with respect. Jesus is here to heal and forgive us just as he did for the woman in today’s Gospel.
The news reports have moved on to the Supreme Court ruling on Obama Care and the tragedy in Charleston is starting to drift into the background. The example of forgiveness by the congregation at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal church is extremely unique today. As heartbroken from the loss of family and friends as the congregation is, they looked beyond their grief and reached out to forgive the person who walked into their Bible Study and killed them.
Jesus was always concerned with what was in a person’s heart and thoughts. He was more interested in the intent of the person because that has to change in order for our actions to change. The tragedy in Charleston made me examine my own thoughts and feelings toward others. I strive to be a person who loves and respects everyone, but sometimes I fall short and need God’s healing and forgiveness like the woman in the Gospel.
The congregation at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal church forgave an act so horrific that seems impossible to forgive, but we still hold grudges and are unwilling to forgive family and friends over things that are so trivial by comparison. This coming week, let us ask God to give us the strength to forgive like the congregation in Charleston and help us to truly love as we reach out to forgive others.
Will we have the courage to stand up and defend the person who is being put down because their clothes are from a different culture or they have dark skin? Or will we be quiet and let the abuse and hatred continue? Are we willing to forgive others for the pain they caused us? Will we reach out and ask others to forgive us for the pain that we have caused them? In our hopelessness and despair, will we, in faith, reach out to touch the hem of Jesus’ garment so we can be healed?

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