As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, "Follow me." And he got up and followed him. And as he sat at dinner in the house, many tax collectors and sinners came and were sitting with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?" But when he heard this, he said, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners." (vs. 9-13)
While he was saying these things to them, suddenly a leader of the synagogue came in and knelt before him, saying, "My daughter has just died; but come and lay your hand on her, and she will live." And Jesus got up and followed him, with his disciples. Then suddenly a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his cloak, for she said to herself, "If I only touch his cloak, I will be made well." Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, "Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well." and instantly the woman was made well.
When Jesus came to the leader's house and saw the flute players and the crowd making a commotion, he said, "Go away; for the girl is not dead but sleeping." And they laughed at him. But when the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took her by the hand, and the girl got up. And the report of this spread throughout that district. (vs. 18-26)
Matthew 9:9-13, 18-26
I love the profound simplicity of this catacomb fresco. Here is the image as it appears in the woman’s memory: no pressing crowd to obscure her, surrounded by silence, the background washed away by insignificance, she reaches forth to touch and knows immediately that she’s healed. Here is a picture of the inside of prayer - intimacy magnified.
The meditation prompts this week draw the reader through a process of crying out and reaching for help (Meditation One), touching and being touched by loving silence (Meditation Two), and then becoming the touch the world cries for (Meditation Three).
Meditation One (Introit) Reaching and Touching
Give your weakness to one who helps. Crying out loud and weeping are great resources. A nursing mother, all she does is wait to hear her child. Just a little beginning-whimper, and she’s there. God created the child, that is, your wanting, so that it might cry out, so that milk might come. Cry out! Don’t be stolid and silent with your pain. Lament! And let the milk of loving flow into you.
-Rumi 1207-1273 translated by Colman Barks from The Essential Rumi excerpt from 'Cry Out in Your Weakness'
Isolated and alone Woman of blood pours herself towards the fabric of life.
Dewdrop of hope slips down the thread to the woman with outstretched hands
When despair has obliterated ordinary prayer; when the psalms fail and all words are stupid and meaningless, the mantle of loneliness surrounding me becomes a mantle of dark and wordless love. This darkness reveals the paradox of prayer: in the absence of God, all there is, is God.
-Suzanne Guthrie Grace's Window
Jesus raises the daugher of Jairus: Chinese Bible painting (left) and an African Vie de Jesus Mafa (right). I found both these pictures on Christian websites. These may be copyrighted - if so, let me know and I'll take them down.
Jairus' Daughter, Petrus Comestor's Bible Historiale, 1372, France
Woman touching Jesus' hem, fresco, Catacomb ofSaints Peter and Marcellinus, 3rd century
Meditation Two (Insight) A Loving Silence Reaching and Touching
Allowing the Silence to Find Us
When an acute illness kidnaps you, the initial moments, hours, or days may be a blur. It may be very difficult, if not impossible, to concentrate long enough to listen to anything except the direct instructions of medical personnel. And the sheer shock of an acute event may leave you unable to listen. Yet somehow, many persons do manage to listen. They discover upon reflection that there has been a gift given, but perhaps not received. These persons have encountered a spiritual sense … (T)he practice of silencio is less a matter of a person directly willing the silence to happen than it is a matter of the silence greeting the person, either in the moment or at a later time of remembering. This type of spiritual listening requires waiting for the remembered silence to make itself known. It can’t be forced and it cannot be rushed. It comes as gift.
-Mary C. Earle Broken Body, Healing Spirit, Lectio Divina and Living with Illness
If you had not given me the grace during my nightly vigils to drink the stillness and to submerge myself in it, letting it pervade me through and through, how could I guard that inner stillness without which one can hear neither human beings nor you, O Lord?
-Dom Helder Camara 1909-1999
Meditation Three (Integration) Your Own Hands Touching
Christ has no body now but yours No hands, no feet on earth but yours Yours are the eyes through which He looks Compassion on this world Christ has no body now on earth but yours
-attributed to Teresa of Avila (1515-1582)
Let us touch the dying, the poor, the lonely and the unwanted according to the graces we have received and let us not be ashamed or slow to do the humble work.
-Mother Teresa 1910-1997
The Last Word
When I see them, the children of my people, the world without voice: emaciated, bloated belly, oversized head and, very often, empty, left behind, as if it were missing- it is Christ whom I meet.
-Dom Helder Camara 1909-1999
Love consists in this, that two solitudes protect and touch and greet each other.
-Rainer Maria Rilke
Suzanne's Meditation Healing Within Healing
How is it that each time I am healed (and in the overall ongoing process of healing) a spiritual gift seems imminent? I don't believe that illness is “caused” by some defect in character or sin or is inflicted upon you for some message you're supposed to get. But I can't help noticing the spiritual component that comes with healing. Maybe because I'm trained to watch for the movement of the spirit I see grace mending the emotional chasm left by illness. Maybe it's because I consciously practice gratitude, which is like wearing a pair of corrective glasses (and not rose-colored ones, in case that's what you're thinking. Gratitude, a subtle and sometimes painful and exacting teacher, pries opens consciousness. Try it.)
But maybe I'm attuned to the gift that comes with healing because each time I've been healed I have received a gift, and the more horrible the trauma, the greater the gift. I'm almost afraid to write this, as if it is some dangerous, cosmic secret.
A woman holding her child for the first time after the horror of childbirth knows this cosmic secret. That pain brought forth this love.
The older woman with the hemorrhage is untouchable in her culture because of her flow of blood. The girl dies before she's fertile. The woman reaches for Jesus and is healed. Jesus touches the girl and wakes her from mortal sleep. Isolated by their illness, they are again joined with their loved ones. Jesus not only heals but restores the two women in the Gospel story to the ability to bring forth life.
A healing occurs within my healing. Creative and generative, I am my old self, almost, maybe different, diminished, but with new grace infused where pain once hollowed me out. Like that dangerous and cosmic secret, the crucifixion, that pain brought forth this love.
O God of peace, who hast taught us that in returning and rest we shall be saved, in quietness and in confidence shall be our strength: by the might of thy Spirit lift us, we pray thee, to thy presence, where we may be still and know that thou art God.