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Shame and the Lord

In the Gospel reading, Jairus wades fearlessly into the crowd around Jesus and interrupts what Jesus is doing.

Jairus is an important person, an official of the synagogue; and his twelve-year old daughter is dangerously sick. He believes that Jesus could heal his daughter, but only if he comes right away. And so he urges Jesus to drop everything else and come now.

In that one word, ‘daughter’, Jesus healed her shame as well as her blood-flow.

And Jesus does turn immediately to go with Jairus. But then Jairus’s interruption of Jesus is itself interrupted. Jesus stops dead and demands to know who touched him. 

Who touched you? his disciples say in disbelief. Everybody touched you! You are in the middle of a big crowd pressing all around you. 

But, as we know, there was someone who touched Jesus in a special way.  She was a woman who had had an issue of blood for twelve years, just as many years as Jairus had had a daughter. 

Under Mosaic law, that woman was unclean all those years. And anyone who touched her became unclean too. In fact, anyone who even touched anything she sat on or slept on became unclean. The woman had spent all her money on doctors to try to stop the issue of blood, but the doctors had only made her worse. 

So she was poor, outcast, and scared of being noticed. Unlike Jairus, she didn’t dare interrupt Jesus to press her own concerns on him.  And now she had added this dreadful thing to all the other bad things about her: she had touched the Lord himself—and so, she must have thought, she had made even Jesus unclean. 

No wonder she was trembling when Jesus called her out, and she had to face him. Shame such as hers makes a person desperate to be invisible.  

Unlike Jairus, this woman in her great need had not been willing to put herself forward. But she was so desperate to be healed that she was willing to be shamed, no-account, and invisible. She accepted being unnoticed and unimportant as long as she could be healed.

But Jesus was not willing to tolerate her own estimation of herself.  He made the official of the synagogue wait for her. “Daughter,” Jesus says to her, “your faith has saved you.“

In that one word, ‘daughter,’ Jesus healed her shame as well as her blood-flow. He showed her and all the crowd around her that she was to him what Jairus’s daughter was to Jairus.

And so Jairus was not the only one who cared for his daughter on that day.

Eleonore Stump

Eleonore Stump is Professor of Philosophy, Saint Louis University

Art by Martin (Steve) Erspamer, OSB
from Religious Clip Art for the Liturgical Year (A, B, and C). This art may be reproduced only by parishes who purchase the collection in book or CD-ROM form. For more information go