In the Mass reading yesterday a passage came up which I came to see in a new light which I had never before considered. It was the passage with the woman in the crowd who reaches out for Jesus’ cloak to be healed, and then is healed as soon as she touched it. Jesus stops and feels that power has gone out from him, and turns around to ask the crowd who has touched him. The Apostles look around and say that everyone is pressing in on everyone else in the crowd, so how can Jesus ask ‘who touched me?’ The woman comes forward, however, and explains everything to Jesus. Jesus’ response then comes: “Daughter, your faith has made you well, go in peace” Now, this passage is one of my favourites for a few reasons, including how it connects to the Catholic theology of relics. However, I noticed today that Jesus responded in a way which may provide another veiled reference to his divinity. Notice that in the Gospel of Mark, where this passage is found, Jesus also forgives people for their sins against one another and against God, and acts as though he were in a position to forgive anybody – as though he were the one principally offended by the sin. This itself is evidence of his divinity. However, here also Jesus does something rather surprising.
When we turn to the passage for some context, this point becomes even richer.
When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered round him; and he was by the lake. Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet and begged him repeatedly, ‘My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.’ So he went with him.
And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him. Now there was a woman who had been suffering from haemorrhages for twelve years.She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, for she said, ‘If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.’Immediately her haemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, ‘Who touched my clothes?’ And his disciples said to him, ‘You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, “Who touched me?” ’ He looked all round to see who had done it. But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. He said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.’
While he was still speaking, some people came from the leader’s house to say, ‘Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?’But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, ‘Do not fear, only believe.’ He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, he saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. When he had entered, he said to them, ‘Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.’ And they laughed at him. Then he put them all outside, and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him, and went in where the child was. He took her by the hand and said to her, ‘Talitha cum’, which means, ‘Little girl, get up!’ And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement. He strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.
Notice that in this passage Jesus is on his way to heal a young girl, the ‘daughter’ of a man who has come to Jesus for help. This girl is merely twelve years old, and the father cares deeply about his daughter. However, on the way there, a woman who is likely older than Jesus himself comes to him and touches his robe. He refers to this woman, a stranger, not merely as ‘sister’, but calls her his daughter. Imagine how odd that would sound coming from a man who is younger than her. Notice also that Jesus does not bother using the term ‘daughter’ again when coming to the young girl, who is the daughter he was originally on his way to heal – he calls her merely ‘little girl’. This may be an indication of prudence, since I can’t imagine the parents not being confused at Jesus’ calling their daughter his own daughter – but to the woman who had faith and was more mature he revealed to her a mystery by calling her daughter. He did not merely find out who she was to satisfy his mere curiosity, but imparted to her a mystery of faith in addition to her healing. By calling her ‘daughter’ he revealed to her something deeper about his own identity, and her relationship to him.