What is your favorite Gospel story of encounter with Jesus?
One of the Sisters posed this question to us as we were washing dishes after dinner. Although the stories of my own biblical patrons, Martha and her sister Mary, are close seconds, I knew instantly that my answer was the story of the healing of the woman with the hemorrhage.
The film series The Chosen, about the lives of the followers of Jesus, portrays this healing beautifully. The woman has lost all her money through innumerable, and fruitless, doctor’s visits. But worse still, because of her ritual uncleanness, she is an outcast even among her own family. Her parents have long ago rejected her, she has never been able to marry, and she has not been able to worship in the synagogues throughout those 12 long years.
But Veronica — as The Chosen aptly names her — has not only heard of the rabbi named Jesus but also heard Him preach. She is convinced that if she can only touch the hem of His garment, she will be healed. She has a deep desire for Him. After she touches His garment in the midst of the crowd and receives her miraculous healing, Jesus turns to see who had touched Him. In a very moving moment, He bends down to her and, in accord with the biblical text, calls her “My daughter.” The woman shakes her head: “I’m no one’s daughter now.”
“Yes, you are,” Jesus assures her. “Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be cured of your affliction.”
The greatest healing this woman received was not the drying up of her flow of blood; it was God’s calling her His “daughter”!
You and I are sons and daughters of God by baptism. Even, or especially, when we feel ignored or forgotten or rejected, He Himself looks at us with love and exclaims, “My son!” or “My daughter!”
On the first Sunday of Lent each year, we hear the Gospel account of Jesus’ temptation in the desert. I was struck this year by the beginning of Satan’s first temptation: “If you are the Son of God…”
The devil tried to sow doubt that Jesus is the Beloved Son of God and to undermine Jesus' trust in His Father's goodness and love. Similarly with us, the tempter wants nothing more than for us to doubt our identity as beloved sons or daughters of God. If he achieves this, he has a victory indeed.
So this Lent, let us cling to Christ, asking Him to show us again and again the unique and deeply profound love that God the Father has for each one of us. When He looks at you, He sees His Son Jesus, who won you back by the shedding of His priceless Blood and who transforms you by feeding you with His very Self. You are precious in the Father’s eyes.
What is your favorite Gospel story of encounter with Jesus? And what does it show you about God’s unique and personal love for you?
Sr. Mary Martha Becnel is a member of the Ann Arbor-based Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist.