Healthcare. It’s all over the news. Even as I write these words the public debate continues regarding how we as a country can best serve those in need of healing.
In this week’s Gospel we meet two women — one older, one younger — who are both in need of healing. In each case Jesus heals their physical affliction. But, of course, with Jesus there’s always more to the story.
The first woman had been ill for 12 years. But her ailment was not only a physical affliction. Her illness involved blood and Jews were prohibited from touching a woman who was bleeding. Recently our public television station aired a special on AIDS which included film footage of early care and treatment. Pat was a volunteer at an AIDS ward in the early days and she recalls the almost superstitious concern caregivers had about coming into contact with an AIDS patient’s blood. Like all of the volunteers, Pat was trained to be cautious. But Pat also knew the importance of touch, and when a patient reached out to touch her, Pat always reached back.
The second woman in the Gospel story was younger, a girl of 12, the age when many girls first begin to bleed. It is possible that here, too, Jesus would touch a bleeding woman. But, more, he would touch one who might be dead and this, too, would have been prohibited.
For several years now our local news stations have been following the story of a little boy with a rare and painful skin disease. He had been doing quite well following surgery but later went back into the hospital, seriously ill with pneumonia. Healthcare professionals continue to work for the child’s physical healing as friends and neighbors offer emotional healing and support to the child’s frightened and exhausted family.
Healthcare. The good news is that even as we continue to debate the issue Jesus continues to heal. Just ask the man who was lifted up because a volunteer in an AIDS ward touched him, or the family that was brought back to life because a woman with a casserole gave them something to eat.
Van Benthem is a member of the Secular Franciscan Order and a longtime pastoral minister in the diocese.