December 4, 2015: Barbara the Great Martyr, John the Righteous of Damascus, New Hieromartyr Seraphim, bishop of the Phanar in Greece, Juliana the Martyr of Heliopolis, Alexander Hotovitzky, New Hieromartyr of Russia, Missionary to America
Epistle: Galatians 3:23-29; 4:1-5
Gospel: Mark 5:24-34
Jesus uses a curious phrase in this morning’s Gospel. St Mark says that Jesus “knowing that power had gone out of Him” asks “‘Who touched My clothes?'” (5:30, NKJV)
In a sermon attributed to St John Chrysostom we read that divine grace is Christ’s alone to impart those “who touch Him by faith.” The sermon goes on to say that grace doesn’t “go out of Him locally or corporeally, nor in any respect pass away from Him.” Rather Jesus says what He does “to show that with His knowledge, and not without His being aware of it, the woman was healed.” In other words, what Jesus is aware of is not a change in Himself, much less a loss, but a change in the woman with the flow of blood. It is a change in her, not Himself that He comments upon. And so Jesus asks “who touches Him so “that He might bring to light the woman… and proclaim her faith.” And what of the crowds? While the throng about Him, they “cannot be said to touch” Christ because ” they do not come near [Him] in faith” (Pseudo-Chrysostom in St Thomas Aquinas, Catena Aurea “Mark 5:21-34).
The Venerable Bede makes much the same point. Jesus asks what He does to invite the woman to “confess [her] faith … [and] her sudden belief and healing.” Above all though Christ speaks to confirm her in her faith, making her “an example to others” of the necessity of faith (Catena Aurea “Mark 5:21-34).
St Paul in today’s epistle that the Law isn’t there to reveal my goodness but as a tutor. If anything, the Law (and so my obedience to it) reveals not just my immaturity but my bondage to what he calls “the elements of the world” (4:3, NKJV). Whether we are Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female, whatever our social status, we are all of us apart from faith in Jesus Christ my “pernicious freedom” is just “the matrix of sin” (Ambrosiaster, Epistle to the Galatians, 4.3 quoted in vol VIII of ACCS NT: Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, p. 53).
Like the woman in the Gospel, I pursue “useless remedies” when instead what I need to do is realize “time is short” and “healing is not given to the silent, nor to the one who hides her pain” from Christ. And like her, in the silence of my heart I must take what I dare “not ask for … knowing that healing and forgiveness may be bestowed in this stratagem” and that in “an instant, faith cures where human skill has failed” (Peter Chrysologus, “On the Daughter of the Ruler of the Synagogue, and On the Woman Suffering From An Issue of Blood,” quoted in vol II of ACCS NT: Mark, p. 74).
Faith in Jesus Christ requires from us both humility and boldness. Awareness of my sin makes me humble; confidence in God love makes me bold. One without the other is of no use; both together sets us brings healing, forgiveness and a share in divine glory in this life and the life to come.