Healing One School Kid at a Time
In the Gospel today, the woman suffering with a hemorrhage touches the “hem” of Jesus’ robe and is healed. I always thought that she was expressing humility, her belief that even touching the lowest part of his garment would have effect. I came across a fascinating article this week which suggests there may be more to the story. What is translated as “hem” might actually be referring to the fringes, or tassels (called tzitziyot in Hebrew) which were sewn onto the outer garment worn by Jewish men in that day. This garment eventually evolved into the prayer shawl which you might see worn in modern times. The “fringe/ tassels” were there as a reminder of God’s Word in the commandments of the law. In fact, the tassels are tied into 613 knots to represent the laws of Moses. Also, each tassel was to have a blue thread, a symbol of the Divine. Blue was the most expensive color to reproduce in that ancient world, reserved mostly for royalty and the wealthy. These precious threads in the fringe were probably passed down from father to son, reminding the wearer of his significance in the sight of God.
For the woman in the Gospel, touching this “fringe” was a contact with the healing Word of God, as well as with Jesus, who was becoming known as an authority of that Word. Further, in the prophecy of Malachi, the Messiah of Israel would rise with “healing in his wings.” The Hebrew word for wings used for this passage specifically means the fringe-like feathers or edges of a bird’s wings, not the whole wing. The desperate woman had heard Jesus referred to as the Messiah, perhaps she also remembered this bit of Scripture from the scroll of Malachi and thought, “If I am to be healed, then it will be found in his wings….the fringe of his garment.” In faith, she reaches, touches, and is healed.
You don’t need an Ancient Hebrew Project Runway to weave together the richness and layers of meaning that are being conveyed in this episode of healing. And we probably don’t need an encyclopedia to understand how it might translate into some back-to-school clothes this September…..
Next weekend is the Parish Picnic and, as we’ve been doing for several years, a quarter of the profit will go to Merton Center. It’s used primarily to purchase clothes for school kids who are involved in programs at the Center. I hope we can all see a blue thread running through these clothes, because they are more than a “nice thing to do.” They underline the importance of both the intangible and the practical, intellectual as well as physical needs, of kids who require both. They also represent a faith community which tries to keep the Lord at its center and which learns each day that its goodness must be reflected in action, in a generosity of heart, in the sure belief that the world will be healed one school kid at a time.