Have you ever been so sick that you have felt desperate? Have you ever been so frustrated with the situation that you will do anything to force a change? The flip side of these questions is to ask ourselves what it means to be well, to feel whole, and to trust. What does it take for us to live with peace? Let us listen to today’s scripture story.
Mark 5: 25-34
25A woman who had suffered a condition of hemorrhaging for twelve years— 26a long succession of physicians had treated her, and treated her badly, taking all her money and leaving her worse off than before— 27had heard about Jesus. She slipped in from behind and touched his robe. 28She was thinking to herself, “If I can put a finger on his robe, I can get well.” 29The moment she did it, the flow of blood dried up. She could feel the change and knew her plague was over and done with.
30At the same moment, Jesus felt energy discharging from him. He turned around to the crowd and asked, “Who touched my robe?”
31His disciples said, “What are you talking about? With this crowd pushing and jostling you, you’re asking, ‘Who touched me?’ Dozens have touched you!”
32But he went on asking, looking around to see who had done it. 33The woman, knowing what had happened, knowing she was the one, stepped up in fear and trembling, knelt before him, and gave him the whole story.
34Jesus said to her, “Daughter, you took a risk of faith, and now you’re healed and whole. Live well, live blessed! Be healed of your plague.”
Hear what the spirit is saying to the church.
THANKS BE TO GOD!
When I was a young adult, away at university, I got a call from the mother of a close friend.
She asked if I could come to Hamilton to see her daughter.
My friend had been hospitalized for depression – a severe case.
Her parents were “uncomfortable” visiting her and hoped I would come.
My friend recovered, finished university, I presided at her wedding and baptised her daughter.
But what I carry from this experience is the stigma and frigid isolation that comes with mental illness.
Her parents, sisters and friends could not bring themselves to visit her in the hospital.
The woman who searches out Jesus in the passage from Mark’s gospel has been sick for a long time – 12 frustrating years – time when family, friends and community retreated from her when the “accepted cures” failed.
She was desperate to be made well from her chronic condition.
Lamar Williamson explains in his commentary of Mark (Interpretation) that the Greek work “5020” is usually translated as “to heal” but he argues it is more correctly translated as “to make well.”
The healing of Jesus = to bring us wholeness – to enable us to live in peace.
In the end, Jesus worked no magic on the woman, he affirmed her own trust and faith as the source of her renewed health.
2012 Health Canada Report
“20% of Canadians will personally experience a mental illness during their lifetime.”
“40% of disability claims (short or long term) relate to mental illness.” (also in report of Mental Health Commission of Canada)
12% of Canadians will suffer from anxiety disorder annually.
The serious stigma and discrimination attached to mental illnesses are among the most tragic realities facing people with mental illness in Canada. Arising from superstition, lack of knowledge and empathy, old belief systems, and a tendency to fear and exclude people who are perceived as different, stigma and discrimination have existed throughout history. They result in stereotyping, fear, embarrassment, anger and avoidance behaviours. They force people to remain quiet about their mental illnesses, often causing them to delay seeking health care, avoid following through with recommended treatment, and avoid sharing their concerns with family, friends, co-workers, employers, health service providers and others in the community. The Canadian Alliance for Mental Illness and Mental Health (CAMIMH) has identified combating the stigma of mental illness and preventing discrimination against people with mental illnesses as one of the most pressing priorities for improving the mental health of Canadians.
This confirms what I experienced with my childhood friend but there was one more chilling bit of information.
It comes from the Canadian Coalition of Alternative Mental Health Resources in a 2007 paper on “Mental Health and Spirituality.”
In the U.S., approximately 50% of health professionals and over 80% of the American scientific community describe themselves as agnostic or atheist compared to only 3% of the general public. At the same time, spirituality is associated with better physical and mental illnesses. What we do know for certain is that spirituality is an important issue for mental health consumers. They, along with the rest of the population, are very spiritual. Most scientists and health professionals are not. This leads to a profound disconnect between helpers and consumers, because helpers are missing out on key elements in personal meaning and recovery. Mental Health professionals may not ask their clients about their spiritual beliefs and activities.
The chronic condition of mental illness in our communities needs us to act as Christ’s servants in our communities.
Like Jesus with that woman, we and our churches need to be sensitive, patient, compassionate and approachable.
If our calling is to “make well” those experiencing anxiety, depression and other chronic illnesses, then we must make our lives and our churches accessible.
For all of us this is, as Jesus said, “a risk of faith.”