Father Kim gave his homily this Thirteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time at our Cathedral in Reno Nevada by discussing the woman with the hemorrhage from the Gospel reading. As he began his talk, he reminded us of another healing, that of the paralytic. Jesus asks the grammarians, “What is easier to say…” Scholars, we read the Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, and Latin texts, trying to find out the word meanings so we can pass this to our congregations.
Unlike the grammarians, whom Jesus is always confronting, Jesus tells us how grammar/syntax and semantics, along with their rules are not important to understand Torah and Gospel. In linguistics, we learn of a third part of good grammar called pragmatics. Vatican II, “Dogmatic Constitution On Divine Revelation,” in the section, “Revelation Itself,” tells us:
“God, who through the Word creates all things… gives men an enduring witness to Himself in created realities…”
Chapter 3:12 states, “God speaks in Sacred Scripture through men in human fashion.” “The interpreter of Sacred Scripture, in order to see clearly what God wanted to communicate to us, should carefully investigate what meaning the sacred writers really intended, and what God wanted to manifest by means of their words.”
Forget the intricacies of grammar. Look at the real people in the story. Look at what they would think, what they would feel. The fancy German term the scholars and our current grammarians use is “Sitz im Leben,” or “Setting in life.” We need to look at the setting where the people lived, and not in our own life setting. That was Father Joe’s homily. Father Joe presents us with the woman with the hemorrhage. She lived in a different world than we do, a world where the temple was the focus of all.
Mark 7 tells us of the traditions of the elders. Jesus tells the crowd, “Nothing entering from outside makes a person common; the things coming from within make people common.” The fancy Latin word is “Vulgar.” People are vulgar; they speak the language of the common man, using four letter words, and being like scrub cattle, can be mean. After Mass, parishioners discussed how some poor people make stupid decisions and end up in jail.
In Jesus’ time, and today, there were the common/dirty people unfit to enter the temple. There were the clean people, fit to enter the temple, make the right contacts, do the right things, and make a success of themselves. It really does sound much like today, except for the temple. “The life of the flesh is in the blood.” “The life of all flesh is its blood.” “Blood is life…” “When a woman has a flow of blood from her body, she shall be in a state of menstrual uncleanness for seven days. Anyone who touches her is unclean until evening.” She who sheds blood sheds life, even if it is a natural bodily function or the product of disease. Therefore, she and anyone touching her is unclean. The purpose of the rule was to teach the importance of life, how blood equals life.
In Mark 5: 21, the rule prevented life. Because this woman always had the discharge, she was always unclean. Anyone coming near her was unclean and common, unfit to enter the temple, make the right contacts, do the right things, make a success of themselves.
Father began his homily by asking if anyone ever felt ostracized. That was the case of this woman. She was no longer a part of the community because of her illness. She was an outcast. Because of the rules, she now not only suffered from a physical ailment, but from the mental distress of having no communal contact. The rule had the exact opposite affect from what it was intended to teach.
“The old ragged patch, the old rugged cross, the young girl and new life,” relates the final section of the Jewish Creed, “The Shema,” and how it relates. Unlike St. Mark, St. Matthew mentions how she touches the cords all Jewish men are required to wear to remind them of Torah, and its customs, correct judicial precedents, and traditions.
Reaching out to touch these, the woman reaches out to touch thousands of years of tradition, to Sinai, and what it means to be a member of Jewish community. Because of the way men wore these cords, it would be very difficult for a standing woman to touch these. She would need to be on her knees, further emphasizing her humble position. Jesus teaches the woman how her faith saves her.
Father discussed how our Eucharistic feast calls us all to community. We are community, reaching out to all. All are like the woman in our Gospel, needing healing. We are a community preaching salvation. When we bring salvation to our world, which comes from full participation in our Eucharist, there is no room or need for morality. The gratitude coming from salvation tells us how to act. We need to be Tzaddic or Mensch, charitable people who put life ahead of the rules or grammar, tradition, etiquette, and yes, even morality itself.