While Jesus was speaking to them, an official of the synagogue came up to him, bowed before him and said, “My daughter has just died, but come and place your hands on her, and she will live.” Jesus stood up and followed him with his disciples. Then a woman who had suffered from a severe bleeding for twelve years came up from behind and touched the edge of his cloak. For she thought, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed.” Jesus turned, saw her and said, “Courage, my daughter, your faith has saved you.” And from that moment the woman was cured. When Jesus arrived at the official’s house and saw the flute players and the excited crowd, he said, “Get out of here! The girl is not dead. She is only sleeping!” And they laughed at him. But once the crowd had been turned out, Jesus went in and took the girl by the hand, and she stood up. The news of this spread through the whole area.
Radioactivity is “the spontaneous emission of radiation from atomic nuclei” (Collins Dictionary). It is a form of energy, invisible to the eye, but which a specialized instrument such as a Geiger counter can detect and measure. We are all familiar with radioactivity, physical radioactivity, that is.
But, in a manner of speaking, we could say that there exists an emotional radioactivity as well. That is the reason for keepsakes, souvenirs, mementos: we consider that an object which has once belonged to a lost loved one can somehow enable us to renew our contact with that loved one, that it “radiates” the loved one’s presence.
In like manner, we could speak of a spiritual radioactivity. Objects closely associated with a holy person are often perceived as radiating some of the saint’s power to heal, strengthen, comfort, console, etc. For instance, the Bible shows that some apostles emitted that kind of spiritual radioactivity capable of healing: Paul’s accessories (Acts 19:12), Peter’s shadow (Acts 5:15). The Catholic use of saints’ relics for healing purposes is based on these solid biblical data, and not on some vague superstition.
In today’s gospel reading the bleeding woman likewise sees Jesus as the source of a spiritual radioactivity capable of being communicated through his cloak. And she is right. Approaching Jesus in faith is always a healing experience.
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