There are many stories about women in the Bible. Eve, Rahab, Ruth, Esther, Jael, Elizabeth, Mary, Mary Magdalene, and Martha all have amazing, inspiring stories as to how God transformed their lives and used them to further establish his kingdom here on Earth. And that’s just naming a few. Yet there are two ladies, who aren’t even named, that I think deserve some recognition for their beautiful, inspiring examples of responding to God. I am referring to the old woman who suffered from hemorrhages and the little girl who had fallen asleep. Both of these stories are told in the latter part of chapter 8 of Luke, specifically verses 40-56. You can read these passages here.
While there are women mentioned at the beginning of Luke 8, much can be learned from these stories specifically. I’m going to address what lessons can be learned from each story first and then what the two stories combined can teach us about living as children of God.
The old woman with the hemorrhages: Luke 8:43-48
1. She was steadfastly faithful, even in the midst of great suffering. As Catholics, we know our suffering, when offered up to God, has the potential to greatly benefit us and those we offer our trials for. Alas, that doesn’t make suffering any easier. The Bible doesn’t say who this woman was or what connection she might have had to Jesus. All it tells us is that she had been suffering for twelve years from these hemorrhages, had spent all her living seeing multiple doctors, still hadn’t been cured, and was courageous enough to reach out to touch Jesus in the midst of an enormous crowd. This woman, though probably desperate to see her suffering at an end, was not discouraged by that suffering. She had spent all her living searching for a cure, which at that time was a daring thing for a woman to do. She was determined to reach Jesus in spite of not knowing if he would heal her or if he even could heal her. We do not know if she was a Jew or not or if she was a widow or not. While we don’t know the background of this woman’s faith, we see the proof of it in this story. She suffered so terribly and for so long yet was still willing to search for Jesus and reach out to him. It’s a small example of a great and faithful love that I think many can learn from, myself included.
2. She told the crowd and Jesus about her sufferings and her healing. When Jesus asks those in the crowd who touched him, the woman, trembling, came forward. She fell at his feet and told him the whole story. Now this is important for two reasons. The first is that the woman, though she was probably just answering Jesus’ question, provides witness to the crowd of Jesus’ power. She, in her own way, becomes an evangelist. The second reason is a little bit more implicit and complicated and requires some explanation first. In paragraph 921 of St. Faustina’s diary, Jesus asks St. Faustina why she doesn’t talk to him about all that is going on. When she answers that he already knows everything, he replies “Yes, I do know; but you should not excuse yourself with the fact that I know, but with childlike simplicity talk to Me about everything, for My ears are inclined towards you, and your words are dear to Me.” Just as parents like to hear stories from their children’s perspectives, even though they know what happened, so too does our Lord like to hear stories from our perspectives. This woman fulfills Jesus’ desire to hear from those who know him. While it is important to tell others about one’s relationship with God, it is even more important to make our relationship with God strong through communicating with him, even if we communicate with him out of fear instead of love sometimes. Jesus knew what had happened and knew that the woman was scared. He listened and replied with mercy, setting the foundation for a beautiful relationship. Who knows what they later shared together because of that one encounter that brought them so close?
The little girl who was sleeping: Luke 8:49-56.
1. She let herself sleep. One can argue that the little girl didn’t have a choice in the matter of whether she fell asleep or not. She was ill and she died. Yet she did the one thing we all will do at some point: she was still and surrendered her life to God. She gave him control, not knowing what he would do. And Jesus called her back and gave her new life. From fairly early on in a Catholic’s life, one is taught to incorporate God into one’s lives in as many ways as possible. We are told to continually search for him. While this is a good and necessary pursuit for growing in faith, our constant searching for God can make us lose sight of the fact that he is pursuing us as well. This is why numerous saints, such Saint Francis de Sales, Saint John of the Cross, and Saint Teresa of Calcutta, stress the importance of silence and of stillness. If we do not allow ourselves to be still, to listen to him, and to let ourselves sleep in surrender like the little girl did, then how will we hear his voice calling us where he wants us to go next?
Both stories: Luke 8:40-56
1. Jesus knows what we need and how to heal our hurts. Both the woman with the hemorrhages and the girl who had fallen asleep demonstrate Jesus’ compassion and his knowledge of humanity. He knew that the woman was scared as she admitted her suffering and what she did. He listened and responded to her lovingly. He knew that the little girl’s parents were extremely upset and he reassured them, even when others tried to discourage them from seeking Jesus’ help. He knew the little girl needed to be called back and knew that she was hungry after she returned. He healed both of these girls where they needed it the most. These two stories, of the many in the scriptures, further illustrate God’s great, all-knowing and all-encompassing love and care for us, his children.
2. They didn’t let anything stop them from responding to God’s call. Another interesting facet of these two stories is the difference in how God calls them. The woman with the hemorrhages followed an interior call to Jesus while the little girl had a recognizable, exterior call from Jesus. And each of them had different challenges standing in their way from responding to those calls. Nevertheless, they let nothing stop them. May we all be brave enough to follow their example.
I hope delving into this passage of scripture has given you a new appreciation for it and that these ladies inspire you as they have inspired me. May God bless you.