Celebrating the International Women's Day with women from St. Louis, I wrote the following reflection.
“She said to herself, ‘If I only I could touch his cloak, I will be made well.’ [Mt 9:21, Mk 5:28] In the Gospel of Mark the voice of the woman is passive--- expressing a deep desire “if only.” The Gospel of Luke takes away the woman’s line, but the voice of the woman is a powerful tradition in Mark and Matthew, even if it is spoken only to herself. We hear her. The woman’s words send a message that she is aware, that she thinks, and that she actively works for her own wellbeing.
Women have thoughts, desires and feelings and often these desires are centered in the desire for life – so she can give more life. In this story, the woman’s desire is to be free of the curse of uncleanness related to blood. Blood is the life giving element in human beings, women menstruate and shed blood during child birth. For men during biblical times, women are unclean because women throw away blood unnecessarily and touch blood. It must be awesome and frightening for men to see women bleed and still live, a mysterious power not given to men. The body of women has power and men, and women too, are not sure where this power comes from. Fear of women has translated into the centuries of religious laws, prohibitions and curse limiting the space of women in church and society. The desire to be free echo in the words of the hemorrhaging woman: “If I only touch Jesus’ cloak, I will be made well”. She did the most unthinkable thing: she touched the cloak of a man in public, though Matthew and Luke said the fringe, the hemline only, but she touched him! Hah!!! [silence]
We are her today to celebrate women’s life and gifts. The invitation is “Let us paint the church purple”. It means let us reclaim and proclaim the Good News of the hemorrhaging woman, let us break thousands of years of silent bondage, let us break through the suspicion men and us women have of each other and proclaim the freedom of women in mind body and spirit. God/ess has given us the power to shed blood and be alive, God/ess gave us power to live through so much suffering and still live with love. Today we are inviting you to reflect and know the “hemorrhaging woman” within you, the woman in all of us who is journeying through life today, blessed with dignity and spiritual power. Let us reclaim the purple color in our story, let us reclaim our dignity and strength