Christ healing the woman with a haemorrhage,
Catacombs of Marcellinus and Peter, three kilometres southeast of Rome, ancient Via Labicana,
4th century AD
© Christian Art

Christ healing the woman with a haemorrhage,
Catacombs of Marcellinus and Peter, three kilometres southeast of Rome, ancient Via Labicana,
4th century AD
© Christian Art

Gospel of 8 July 2024

The woman with the haemorrhage touched Jesus' cloak

Matthew 9:18-26

While Jesus was speaking, up came one of the officials, who bowed low in front of him and said, ‘My daughter has just died, but come and lay your hand on her and her life will be saved.’ Jesus rose and, with his disciples, followed him. Then from behind him came a woman, who had suffered from a haemorrhage for twelve years, and she touched the fringe of his cloak, for she said to herself, ‘If I can only touch his cloak I shall be well again.’ Jesus turned round and saw her; and he said to her, ‘Courage, my daughter, your faith has restored you to health.’ And from that moment the woman was well again.

When Jesus reached the official’s house and saw the flute-players, with the crowd making a commotion he said, ‘Get out of here; the little girl is not dead, she is asleep.’ And they laughed at him. But when the people had been turned out he went inside and took the little girl by the hand; and she stood up. And the news spread all round the countryside.

Reflection on the catacomb painting

In this morning’s gospel reading, we see two distinct individuals approaching Jesus in their time of need: a synagogue official on behalf of his daughter and, on her own behalf, a woman with a haemorrhage. The manner in which they approach Jesus differs significantly. The synagogue official makes a very public plea, bowing low before Jesus and openly expressing his need. In contrast, the woman approaches Jesus privately, silently touching the fringe of his cloak and speaking only to herself. Each of us has a unique way of relating to the Lord, just as we have unique ways of relating to others.

Both the synagogue official and the woman demonstrated faith, but they expressed it in very different ways. Our faith unites us as a community, yet it does not suppress our individuality. In the gospel, Jesus responds generously to both the public plea of the synagogue official and the private act of the woman. He makes no distinction between them, responding equally to their needs and cries for help. Both forms of prayer, the prayer for our own needs and the prayer for others, are expressions of our faith in the life-giving touch of Jesus.

Our artwork, in the Catacombs of Marcellinus and Peter, Rome, depicts Christ healing the woman with a haemorrhage. The story of this woman is told on all three Synoptic Gospels: Matthew 9:22, Mark 5:25-34 and Luke 8:43-48. These gospel accounts are far more detailed than the 4th-century catacomb image we are looking at. The woman had to push her way through a crowd following Jesus as he made his way to the home of the synagogue official whose daughter was dying. After she touched the hem of his garment, Jesus asked who had touched him. His disciples, puzzled, protested that the crowd was too dense to single out any one person. Only then did Jesus turn and speak to the woman. The suppression of these details is typical of 4th-century images. Images tended to focus on a singular detail and leave out any non-essential narrative elements.

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Andy Bocanegra
Andy Bocanegra
7 days ago

Today’s artwork is beautiful in its simplicity. I find it amazing that it has survived all these years. It conveys its message wonderfully. I like where Father Patrick says that Jesus responds to prayers for our own needs and for others needs. I sometimes find it difficult to pray for myself.

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