Touch His Garment’s Hem

Click here for today’s readings.

Today, in Mercy, our readings tell the story of the woman with the hemorrhage, and the little girl raised to life. I wrote the following homily about this passage for the Catholic Health association in 2015. I hope you find it worth reading.

For more inspiring prayer and scripture resources from CHA, please see:

CHA Prayer Library

Healing of the Daughter of Jairus and the Woman with a Hemorrhage

It is a soft, summer morning in Capernaum and Jesus is in the height of his ministry. Large crowds follow him wherever he goes, crowds hungry with hope; crowds fired by his counter-cultural words and miraculous deeds. This morning, Jesus prepares to speak to them, to translate into language they can comprehend the Eternal Life that lives in his heart. His back is to the gentle, sunlit sea. The hubbub softens to a murmur, finally stilled by the lapping waves.

But before Jesus can begin, a distressed man bursts through the gathered crowd. His robes fly about him as he runs to Jesus and falls at his feet. This man is important, so important that we all have known his name for two thousand years. This is Jairus who lives nearby and organizes the worship in the synagogue. Now breathless and swallowing sobs, Jairus pleads with Jesus: Please! My daughter! You can give her life!


Every loving father has been Jairus at least once in his life. We know these fathers. We are these fathers. They are the ones who burst into emergency rooms with a seizing infant in their arms. They are the ones who stare blankly at the pronouncement of a stillborn child. They are the old men in war-ravaged countries who kneel at the sides of their fallen sons and desecrated daughters. They are all the men throughout history rendered helpless by the forces of unbridled power, greed and death.

The merciful heart of Jesus understands this man and his desperate urgency. Without even a word, Jesus gets up and accompanies Jairus to the place of his pleading.

But there is another urgency pushing forward from the crowds: a woman, apparently of low importance for we have never known her name. She is a woman whom the ages have defined by her affliction. She is “The Woman with the Hemorrhage”. Without the status of Jairus, she approaches Jesus as such a woman must. She crawls behind him at his heels, reaching through the milling masses to even scrape the hem of his garment.

Mk 5_28

This is a troubled woman, a stigmatized woman. Her life has been spent, literally, in embarrassment, isolation, fatigue and, no doubt, abuse. For twelve years – coincidentally the life span of Jairus’ s daughter – her vitality has bled out of her. Her face is gaunt; her eyes sunken. Her soul’s light is all but extinguished. She is a woman who knows a particular kind of scorn.

We know these women. We are these women. They are the ones filled with remorse for an aborted baby. They are the ones who miscarry their longed-for child. They are the women whose beautiful young sons are profiled, stereotyped and hunted on the violent streets. They are the mothers of “The Disappeared”. They are the women who suffer disproportionately from war, poverty, hunger and violence. They are trafficked women, prostituted women, women victimized by the long saga of domination. They are the women whose children have been torn from them at the borders.

It is just such a broken woman who stretches her fingers through the Galilean dust in a last reckless reach for healing. She finds only the hem of his robe. Touching it, she is transformed, like a parched meadow in the spring rain. Her whole being reaches up to receive the holy restoration. She knows herself to be healed. And it is enough; it is everything. She retreats into the resignation of her otherwise lonely life.

But Jesus wants more for us than just the practical miracles we beg for. We ask for one healing; Jesus wants our eternal salvation. We ask for one blessing; Jesus wants our entire lives to be filled with grace. We ask for one prayer to be answered; Jesus wants our life to become a prayer.

Jesus feels the electrical touch of her hope. He feels the secret healing she has extracted from him. He turns to seek her. Can you see their eyes meet? Yes, the bleeding has been stemmed, but he sees the deeper wounds that scar her soul. His look of immense mercy invites her to tell him “the whole truth”. By her touch, she has commandeered a physical healing. But by his gracious turning toward her, her entire being is renewed. In this sacred glance, her history has been healed. Her future has been pulled from darkness into light. Her capacity to love has been rekindled. She now and forever will remember herself as a child of God.

Jairus waits, no doubt impatiently, at the edge of this miracle, anxious for such power to touch his daughter’s life. He fears they have lingered too long with the woman. His servants arrive, confirming his fears. He receives the dreaded report, “Your daughter has died.”

Jesus now pushes Jairus to the gauntlet of pure faith. In the face of this devastating news, Jesus tells him, “Do not be afraid; just have faith.” Is this not an almost impossible command? Like Jairus, we all know what it is to worry for our children:

  • Fathers of color teach their sons behaviors to protect them from profiling.
  • Immigrant parents fear their children will be ripped from them in a pre-dawn raid.
  • Famine-ravaged mothers watch their children disappear into hunger.
  • In hospitals and doctors’ offices, devastated parents summon the courage to accompany their critically ill child.

And Jesus says, “Don’t be afraid. Have faith.”! What can he possibly mean?


Perhaps it is this simple. In Jairus’s home, Jesus takes the dead girl’s hand. He says, “Talitha, koum – Little girl, arise.” His call to her heart tells her there is no darkness, devastation or death from which God cannot draw us into life. This is the truth Jesus brings to the little girl and to us. But it is a truth that, in our fear and need, we cannot always see.

For the moment, this girl lives. But at some time in history she, like all of us, will die. So the miracle is not the restoration of her life. The miracle is that her eyes, and her parents’ eyes, are opened to the power of God over death. Despite all appearances, God’s life endures eternally.

This is the revelation of this Gospel passage. If we live by faith, we live beyond cure into healing. If we live by faith, even death can bring life. If we live by faith, we are free to release all worry into the abundant mercy of God who grants us healing even beyond our asking or desire.

Man or woman, old or young, at some time in our lives each one of us has been Jairus. Each one of us has been one or the other of these two women. Within their stories of woundedness and deep faith, our stories shelter. Jairus and the afflicted women – unnamed like so many women throughout time – believed there was a way to new life. They reached for it. They begged for it. What is it in us that cries out for such healing? What is it in us that, without the touch of Jesus, teeters on the verge of death?

Simply by believing, these three Gospel figures became new beings. Simply by believing, their orientation changed from darkness to light. By their example, let us lift up those wounded and deadened places in our hearts and world before the loving gaze of Jesus.

To what suffering in our souls is God whispering the encouragement, “Talitha, koum”? What is the “whole truth” Jesus is inviting us to confide? Let us arise and respond to him in the full energy of our faith. Let us gaze with boundless confidence into the eyes of God’s mercy.

Music: One Touch ~ Nicole C. Mullen

God’s Mercies Are Renewed Each Morning

Saturday, June 30, 2018


Today, in Mercy, we encounter a rare -in fact, singular- reading from the Book of Lamentations. While passages from the book are used in the Lenten Tenebrae service, today is the only time we will meet Lamentations during the Mass readings.

So, let’s give it special attention.

This tenderly written and grief-filled Old Testament poem laments the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem nearly 600 years before Christ’s birth. The disaster is seen as God’s punishment against a faithless people, who have listened to false prophets. These prophets, rather than confronting the people with their sinful blindness, enabled their guilt in order to be popular and accepted.

Lament 2_13

What does Lamentations have to say to us?  What, in particular, can it teach our religious leaders about their political voice?

Many of us recognize that we live in a toxic world. Terrorism, perpetual war and militarism, rampant consumerism, political isolationism, environmental destructionism are just some of our global “Babylons”. There are numerous local and personal ones as well.

We all play some role in the fostering or impeding of these systems in our culture. A sincere and active faith helps us see our role and responsibility more clearly. We need faith leaders who are not afraid to call us to insight, lamentation, and prayerful action. We, and the political leaders we choose, need to build a world where we live in balanced relationship with God. This is a world where all God’s people live in peace, sustainability, mutuality, and freedom.

While the Book of Lamentations is filled with sadness and regret, it also contains one of the most beautiful and hopeful verses in Scripture:

Because of the Lord’s great love
we are not consumed,
for his mercies never fail.
They are renewed each morning;
So great is God’s faithfulness.
`~ Lamentations 3:22-23

Some of us may feel that our our current socio-political world is irredeemable, but Lamentations says we are wrong. Vibrant faith, active hope, and limitless courage will prove it.

Music: Great Is Thy Faithfulness

What Faith Can Accomplish

Friday, June 29, 2018

Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul 


Today, in Mercy, we celebrate the great Apostles Peter and Paul. The stories of these men embody all the hills and valleys of a Christian life: call, conversion of heart, ministry, miracles, sacrifice, suffering, failure and glory.

Every human being passes through these hills and valleys. Why do some emerge as saints for the ages and others not? 

Today’s readings would suggest this answer: they believed, and submitted their hearts to God’s unimaginable grace and power. Through that faith, they ultimately were led to the heights of holiness and carried the rest of us believers with them.

Paul says, 

“The Lord stood by me and gave me strength,
so that through me the proclamation of the Word
might be completed.”

When Jesus asks Peter what he believes, Peter says,

“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Ordinary men responding with a clear and extraordinary faith.

One June morning, about forty years ago, I sat in a sun-filled field in the Golan Heights of Israel at a spot named Caesarea Philippi. Thirty other pilgrims composed the group as we heard today’s Gospel being read. Listening, I watched the rising sun grow brilliant on the majestic rock face in the near distance. I thought how Peter might have watched his day’s sun  playing against the same powerful cliffs. 


Jesus said to him,

You are Peter (which mean “Rock”),
and upon this rock I will build my Church.

Cassarea Philippi

A few years later, I stood at the center of St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican. Looking up, I saw these words emblazoned on the awesome rotunda dome:

Tu es Petrus,
et super hanc petram
aedificabo ecclesiam.

vatican dome

On that lazy afternoon, two thousand years ago, Peter could never have imagined what God already saw. Yet, Peter responded – with his whole life. This is what makes a Saint.

Music: Gregorian Chant – Tu Es Petrus


Known By God?

Thursday, June 28, 2018


Mt 7_23


Today, in Mercy, our Gospel reading leaves us with a question: are God and I really friends? Are we more than vague acquaintances who might pass by each other on a Sunday morning, maybe even wave from a distance?


Jesus talks about such people in today’s Gospel. They used God’s name a lot. They claimed that God supported their words and actions. But their actions were rooted in themselves not in the Word. Their faith was a pretense to justify their own agendas.

We human beings are very clever. We can take a scripture snippet and twist and turn it to our own designs. We can bastardize the Word of God to make it vindicate our prejudices. But Jesus says that if we do this, we will hear these dreaded words when we meet Him in eternity:

I never knew you.

How terrible that would be! Let the thought of it inspire us to open our hearts and souls to the deep truth of the Gospel. May that truth convert any selfishness and sinfulness in us into mercy and justice. May it turn our gaze from ourselves toward God and God’s dear Creation.

It is a continual transformation, but God is waiting, lovingly, to lead us.

Music: Lord, You have Searched Me and Known Me ~ Bernadette Farrell 

Abide With Me

Wednesday, June 27, 2018


Today, in Mercy, Jesus continues his closing instructions on living a good life. Our responsorial psalm captures the whole gist of these several admonitions.

Jn 15_4 Abide

What Jesus is saying is, “Stick with Me, and I will show you the way.” It is the Divine Mother’s invitation to her child. “Come, cradle in my arms. I will protect and guide you.”

As wonderful as Christ’s invitation is, it is hard to accept. Most of us think we can do everything ourselves. Many of us find it tiresome to plumb the Gospel to find its truth. We think we already know the way to happiness: money, prestige, and power.

It often takes a lifetime to teach us how wrong we are. But a test comes into most lives which casts us back into the arms of God. We may eventually learn that joy comes from living Gospel truths, loving as God loves, and abiding faithfully with Him.

It takes courage and spiritual insight to accept Christ’s invitation to abide in Him, especially when we feel invincible. May we grow in that courage, early and late in our lives – in good times and bad.

Music: Abide With Me

Pearls, Gates and Mercy

Tuesday, June 26, 2018


Today, in Mercy, Matthew begins to wrap up the long series of instructions related to the Sermon on the Mount. Three familiar, and very direct, closing points punctuate today’s reading:

  • Pearls before swine
  • Do unto others
  • Enter by the narrow gate

best gate1 copy

They sound a bit like what a wise parent might say to a child as he or she goes off to the wide worlds of college, business or marriage. But the core of their message works for us at any age:

Be wise.
Be merciful.
Be focused on God.

Music: Be Thou My Vision

Do Not Judge

Monday, June 25, 2018


Never judge copy

Today, in Mercy, Jesus tells us not to judge. Certainly, He does not mean never to exercise good judgement. We are all called to do that.

What we need to avoid is that critical, and hypocritical, manner of dealing with people in which we think ourselves better than they. Some of us are inclined to think the worst of others and their motives, while failing to examine our own motivations.  This is the kind of judgement Jesus counsels is to avoid.

Today, we hear so much categorization and stereotyping of people. We hear people condemned for their race, economic level, and lifestyle. We hear people called “criminals” simply because of their nationality. We see people denied normal human services, like cake baking and restaurant services, because of who they love or what their job is. We live in a world where these sinful judgements are used to immobilize, isolate, and control people.

We might pray today for wisdom to be delivered from making, or being the object of such judgements.

We might pray for the generosity to give others the benefit of the doubt, without giving up our wise and honest discernment based on Christian love and mercy.

(Sorry for the late publication. Got caught up in my life today!)

Music: Jesus, Friend of Sinners by Casting Crowns

John the Baptist – God’s Surpriser

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Solemnity of St. John the Baptist


sandal unworthy copy

Today, in Mercy, we celebrate John the Baptist of whom Jesus said, “no man greater has been born of women”.

Today’s Gospel talks about the surprise conception of John, and all the drama surrounding his birth. Several other Gospel passages tell us about John’s preaching, his challenges to Herod, and his eventual martyrdom at the request of Salome. These are worth a read today, if you have a little time, just to be reacquainted with this extraordinary man.

John the Baptist was the living bridge between the Old Law and the New. He was the doorway from a religion of requirements to a religion of love. That bridge and doorway were built on a baptism of repentance in order to clear one’s heart to receive the Good News.

The magnificent Greek word for repentance is “metanoia” which indicates a turning of one’s mind and heart after realizing a new truth. Metanoia is to have awareness dawn on us, and to feel sorrow for our former blindness or hardness of heart.

May our prayer today help us to receive the grace of metanoia wherever our spirits are hardened or closed – or just plain deadened by routine. May we hear the Baptist calling to us, “Prepare your hearts – EVERYDAY- for the Lord. There is always room for you to be surprised by God.”

Music: Ut Queant Laxis ( English translation below)

“Utqueant laxis” or “Hymnus in Ioannem” is a Latin hymn in honor of John the Baptist written in Horatian Sapphics and traditionally attributed to Paulus Diaconus, the eighth-century Lombard historian. It is famous for its part in the history of musical notation, in particular solmization (do-re-mi-fa-so-la-ti-do). The hymn is sung to a Gregorian chant, and introduces the original do-re-mi music.

1. O for your spirit, holy John, to chasten
Lips sin-polluted, fettered tongues to loosen;
So by your children might your deeds of wonder
Meetly be chanted.

2. Lo! a swift herald, from the skies descending,
Bears to your father promise of your greatness;
How he shall name you, what your future story,
Duly revealing.

3. Scarcely believing message so transcendent,
Him for a season power of speech forsaketh,
Till, at your wondrous birth, again returneth,
Voice to the voiceless.

4. You, in your mother’s womb all darkly cradled,
Knew your great Monarch, biding in His chamber,
Whence the two parents, through their offspring’s merits,
Mysteries uttered.

5. Praise to the Father, to the Son begotten,
And to the Spirit, equal power possessing,
One God whose glory, through the lapse of ages,
Ever resounding. Amen.

Don’t Worry; Be God-like

Saturday, June 23, 2018


lilies of the field

Today, in Mercy, Jesus once again blows all our human instincts to smithereens! He says don’t worry about what you’ll eat or wear. Seek God’s Kingdom and all your needs will be filled. Really?

We may be tempted to picture a hippie type, bird-watching and sun-bathing in a field of of flowers – all agog with the Kingdom, but not too swift with the world!

But that’s probably not what Jesus envisioned. After all, Jesus himself worked hard to secure the necessities his family needed in Nazareth. He worked hard at his ministry throughout the Holy Land, and cared deeply about the success of his message.

What He didn’t do was worry. 

Worry is what happens when we think it all depends on us. It’s what happens when it’s all about us. Worry is a windowless, doorless room where we run around aimlessly. Even God has a hard time getting in to reason with us.

To break out of that room, Jesus says seek God’s way of looking at things. Work hard and do your best – but make sure it’s for important stuff like love, honor, mercy, justice, charity, and peace. Make sure it’s not for “mammon” stuff like greed, selfishness, domination, prejudice and a host of other sins that love to worry us.

If we can make these distinctions in our life, we will have a freedom like the beautiful lilies and the unfettered sparrows. It will be an amazing liberty that the evil-hearted cannot understand or compromise.

Music: Consider the Lilies of the Field (Words below)

Consider the lilies of the field,
How they grow, how they grow.
Consider the birds in the sky,
How they fly, how they fly.

He clothes the lilies of the field.
He feeds the birds in the sky.
And He will feed those who trust Him,
And guide them with His eye.

Consider the sheep of His fold,
How they follow where He leads.
Though the path may wind across the mountains,
He knows the meadows where they feed.

He clothes the lilies of the field.
He feeds the birds in the sky,
And He will feed those who trust Him,
And guide them with His eye.

Consider the sweet, tender children
Who must suffer on this earth.
The pains of all of them He carried
From the day of His birth.

He clothes the lilies of the field,
He feeds the lambs in His fold,
And He will heal those who trust Him,
And make their hearts as gold.

He clothes the lilies of the field,
He feeds the lambs in His fold,
And He will heal those who trust Him,
And make their hearts as gold.

Where Is Your Treasure?

Friday, June 22, 2018


Today, in Mercy, Jesus continues to teach us how to live a truly Gospel life. He does it with two small sermons and closes each with a blockbuster statement.


Have you ever sat in church, suffering through a rambling sermon that never got to the point? Then you can understand the beauty and effectiveness of these statements of Jesus:

Where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.

If the light in you is darkness, how great will the darkness be.

The first statement leaves us to ponder what really matters to us. Where do we spend our time, talent and treasure? If we say we love God and God’s vulnerable ones, do our “investments” prove it?

The second statement challenges us to be profoundly honest, to stop naming as “good” only that which is self-serving. We see blatant examples of this in our political life: policies and tactics tied to greedy, prejudiced outcomes – outcomes fed by the suffering and oppression of vulnerable human beings. These tactics challenge us to look at our own heart and test what we proclaim as “light”.