The ancient fresco in the catacombs of Saints Peter and Marcellinus in Rome shows the woman who is healed by touching Jesus’ cloak. Her story in Mark’s gospel is placed in the middle of the story of Jesus raising the daughter of Jairus the synagogue official from the dead.. We read the stories of the woman and the dead girl today at Mass. (Mark 5,21-43)
You wonder why the woman’s story interrupts the very dramatic story of the dead girl? Could the fresco in the catacombs where Roman Christians were buried offer a clue? Did they see her pointing to a way they could know Jesus and the mystery of death?
She doesn’t approach Jesus and speak to him face to face as the little girl’s father does. She just touches his cloak and power goes out from him and cures her. In a sense, the woman is like every believer after her who knows the Risen Jesus, not face to face, but through signs.
Those buried in the catacombs were like her. They were baptized with water and received the body and blood of Christ in signs of bread and wine. Like the woman, they touched his garments in the sacraments, and he welcomed them in sacraments. He sees their faith and gives them new life.
When the Catechism of the Catholic Church was issued after the Second Vatican Council, the publishers of the book were instructed to put the picture of the woman touching the cloak of Jesus at the beginning of its section on the sacraments. She’s our guide to sacramental faith.
She tells us to believe and touch the signs that Jesus gives us. We know him through signs and sacraments. They give us his life.