The Gospel passage for today’s liturgy is St. Matthew’s abbreviated version of an incident about which St. Mark wrote more extensively. It involves an official whose daughter has died. While on his way to the house, Jesus is touched by a woman with a hemorrhage. If only I can touch his cloak, I shall be cured (Matthew 9:21b). This incident always gives me a chance to pause and consider the idea of touching Jesus’ cloak. In the Gospel of St. Mark, the woman is content with touching the tassel on his cloak. Whether we are considering St. Matthew’s version or St. Mark’s, we must admit that the connection to Jesus is tenuous at best. Yet so powerful is the woman’s faith in Jesus that this tenuous connection is all that is needed to restore her to health. Of course, in this instance, not only was the woman’s health restored, she herself was restored to her family. Her hemorrhage would have made her ritually unclean or impure, a condition which would have excluded her from interaction with anyone, even her family.
I suspect that there is nothing of more concern to mothers and fathers than their children. So in this short little passage we meet both a father whose daughter has died and a mother who has been cut off from her family. Since touching a corpse or being touched by an unclean person would have rendered Jesus himself unclean, his actions are doubly significant. He cuts through the Law as enumerated in Leviticus and gets to the heart of the matter; namely, concern for these grieving parents.
Parents who have raised their children in the faith only to see them wander from the Church also grieve. Sometimes they blame themselves for their child’s seeming indifference to matters of faith. Others cut themselves out of the lives of their children because of their convictions. The question is posed to clergy people almost daily. How can my children turn away from the Church? How do I respond to their lack of faith? What did I do wrong; where did I fail in raising them?
Such questions are impossible to answer adequately. No one is ever satisfied with the obvious answer. Each person is offered the gift of faith. However, each person must respond to that gift.
However, this is where I find the “tassel” or the cloak of Jesus to be so helpful. Even a tenuous connection to Jesus can lead to salvation. As long as a parent stays connected to Jesus and his/her children stay connected to them, they are touching the cloak of Jesus. That connection is their lifeline to the saving power of Jesus. This is why our life of faith and the example that we live is so important. We are their connection to Jesus. If only I can touch his cloak, I shall be cured.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator