Gospel Reading: Mark 5:21-43
In this passage we find a woman who has been subject to bleeding for 12 years (the age of Jairus’ daughter). For her, this is not merely a physical impairment – she is also a social outcast. Apparently God’s commands to protect the disabled (Lev 19.14) have been completely abandoned by the time of Jesus. That this woman has accepted the definition of social pariah, placed on her by others, is demonstrated by her fear of facing Jesus when he calls her from the crowd in verse 8:47. She is ‘the other’. What must life have been like for this woman? Why did she touch Jesus’ hem (as opposed to a direct request?). What does it say about how she saw herself? Why is her self-image a problem? Who today might be like this woman?
What is striking is Jesus’ way of addressing the situation. Knowing that she was socially outcast because of her ailment, Jesus calls her out of the crowd. He allows her to tell her story publicly, and in that act her reinstates her into the social sphere. For Jesus, social inclusion is equally as important as physical healing. In the reign of God, inclusion is the right of all people regardless of who they are or what ailment they might have. This is what is might mean to destroy the ‘tyranny of normality’ as defined by Stanley Hauerwas in Suffering Presence, the idea that normality is dangerous for people with disabilities because the most stringent power we have over another is not physical coercion but the ability to have another accept our definition of them.
Source: Matt Anslow in TEAR Magazine, Issue 1, 2011