A great crowd followed Him and thronged about Him. And there was a woman who had had a flow of blood for twelve years, and who had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse. She had heard the reports about Jesus, and came up behind Him in the crowd and touched His garment. For she said, “If I touch even His garments, I shall be made well.” And immediately the hemorrhage ceased; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. And Jesus, perceiving in Himself that power had gone forth from Him, immediately turned about in the crowd, and said, “Who touched My garments?” And His disciples said to Him, “You see the crowd pressing around you, and yet you say, ‘Who touched Me?’” And He looked around to see who had done it. But the woman, knowing what had been done to her, came in fear and trembling and fell down before Him, and told Him the whole truth. And He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”
Mark 5: 24-34 (Gospel from the Feast of St. Paraskevi)
The Gospel lesson on the feast day of St. Paraskevi is also read on the feast days of other virgin martyrs, like St. Katherine (November 25) and St. Barbara (December 4). In this Gospel passage, a woman who had a disease of the blood for twelve years touches Jesus’ garment and is healed of her disease. Her story is another testament of faith for us. This poor woman was not only down on her luck but was literally poor. The Gospel tells us that she suffered for twelve years, and had received treatment from many physicians which not only did not bring relief but brought suffering. She also had spent all her money and was destitute as well as sick.
Imagine being as down as this woman—sick, alone, broke, in pain, with no hope of recovery. Who among us wouldn’t feel like giving up? We are told that she had heard the reports about Jesus. She probably weighed out the merits of approaching Him and asking for healing. Perhaps the crowd would have shoved her aside, after all, there were lots of people who wanted an audience with Jesus, for healing, and for other things.
She decided “If I touch even His garments, I shall be made well.” (Mark 5:28) Once she touched His garments, she was healed instantly. Jesus, however, perceiving “that power had gone forth from Him,” (5:30) inquired who had touched His garment. Now the woman was in a quandary—should she go away quietly, grateful for being healed? Or should she tell the whole truth, to Jesus, and to the crowd? She came before Jesus and told Him the truth of what had happened. Jesus showed love and compassion to her when He told her “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.” (5:34)
One lesson to be taken from this Gospel reading is that we can be healed each time we reach out to Christ. No, the healing is not usually as dramatic or instantaneous as the miracle for the women in the Gospel passage—though sometimes it is. The healing that most often comes from Christ is the healing of a broken spirit. Because there are lots of times in life when we feel like this woman—alone, upset, despondent, losing hope because we’ve carried around a burden, a sadness, a struggle, for so long, with no end seemingly in sight. Just about all of us have felt paralyzed by some life circumstance we can’t seem to fix. Many of us have felt like the portrayal of Christ in the cinema, carrying His cross, struggling to take another step.
It is in these times when we should reach out to Jesus, and ask Him for the strength to go one more step, one more day, through one more trial. I can’t tell you how many times I have received Communion with these thoughts in my mind—“Lord, allow me to touch You one more time in this sacred sacrament, so that I may find the strength to continue on in my struggle. Give me hope as I strive to take one more step.” I can say with confidence, that touching God in Communion, has many times given me just the grace I have needed to continue on. This is one of the reasons it is important to receive Holy Communion often. Because as this Gospel passage reminds us, even touching God can give us a measure of healing.
Going back to the story of St. Paraskevi, and her name which means “the day of Preparation,” Holy Communion is an important and necessary part of our preparation for eternal life, as well as a great tool for us to survive the challenges of this life.
Today’s Gospel lesson is read on the feast days of many of the virgin martyrs of the church, women who were “married” to the Lord. Through our baptisms, we have all been “married” (in the sense of being united) to Christ. We pray in the baptism service that we can keep our baptismal garment pure and undefiled until the awesome day of our judgment before Christ. We pray that throughout our lives, we may be faithful to Christ as a bride is to her husband. Not only that we are loyal, but we are checked in, sharing spiritual intimacy through prayer and Communion, two necessary ingredients to a union with Christ in this life and into eternal life.
In the city of our God, in His holy mountain, that is where Saint Paraskevi made her dwelling, and she kept her lamp from going out. Hear the praise of this virgin: “Oh virginity, the temple of God! Oh Virginity, the glory of the Martyrs! Oh Virginity, the partner of Angels!” (Doxastikon of St. Paraskevi, Trans. By Fr. Seraphim Dedes)
Reach out to Christ for healing every day through prayer and each Sunday (and more often when possible) through receiving Him in Holy Communion!