Mark 5, 21-43
We read this story today at Mass. Why does Mark insert the story of the woman who touched Jesus’ garments into the story of the dead girl brought back to life? Was it simply that she happened to meet him on his way to the girl’s house? Maybe there’s another reason.
A picture of the woman touching the garments of Jesus is one of the oldest pictures found in the catacombs of Rome, where early Christians buried their dead. Is it there to remind them that those who died had also touched the garments of Jesus? They didn’t see him, but he met them in signs.
Those buried there believed in him and were baptized with water; they received his life through that sign and entered into the mystery of his death and resurrection. They received his body and blood in the signs of bread and wine, and so like the woman they touched his garments. His power and life went out to them.
The Gospel of Mark was written in Rome, most scholars say. Is Mark’s arrangement of the stories of Jesus raising the dead girl to life and the woman touching his garments a way of teaching Roman Christians about the mystery of death? Jesus was with them on their last journey.
In preparing the Catechism of the Catholic Church after the Second Vatican Council the Roman authorities responsible for the catechism instructed publishers to put the picture from the catacombs of the woman touching the garments of Jesus at the beginning of the section on the sacraments.
She’s an example, an image of the present church which knows Jesus through sacraments. She helps us believe in the power of simple signs.