A Touch of Faith

After making the crossing to the other side of the sea,
Jesus and his disciples came to land at Gennesaret
and tied up there.
As they were leaving the boat, people immediately recognized him.
They scurried about the surrounding country
and began to bring in the sick on mats
to wherever they heard he was.
Whatever villages or towns or countryside he entered,
they laid the sick in the marketplaces
and begged him that they might touch only the tassel on his cloak;
and as many as touched it were healed.
(Mark 6:53-56)

Scripture Study

6:53 This summary of Jesus’ healing activity illustrates once again his compassion for the sick and the people’s profound attraction to him. Mark earlier noted that the disciples were to cross toward Bethsaida at the northeast corner of the lake (6:45), but now they come to land at Gennesaret, a region of fertile plains along the western shore. They may have wondered why Jesus sent them toward Bethsaida only to end up on the opposite side of the lake. Perhaps it is meant to serve as a reminder that Jesus knows what he is about: even when he seems to lead his followers in one direction only to have them change course, there may be a purpose in the journey itself that is even more important than the destination.

6:54–56 Upon arrival Jesus is immediately recognized by the people, who seize the opportunity by running to bring the sick on mats (just as the friends of the paralytic had done, 2:4). The mention of hearing suggests that all who come into contact with Jesus become heralds of his presence, telling others about him. He enters into every sphere of Galilean society—villages, towns, and countryside—and everywhere the people beg him for healing. The marketplaces, the open areas that were the center of commercial and political activity, now become places of encounter with Jesus. As in the story of the woman with a hemorrhage (5:28), all that is needed is a touch, since even his garments can mediate his healing power.

The tassel on his cloak is no mere decoration. It is the long fringe (Hebrew tzitzit) that Jewish men wore on the corners of their prayer shawl, in accord with the law of Moses: “Speak to the Israelites and tell them that they and their descendants must put tassels on the corners of their garments.… When you use these tassels, let the sight of them remind you to keep all the commandments of the Lord” (Num 15:38–39; see Deut 22:12; Matt 23:5). Jesus is the model of faithfulness to the covenant, who perfectly fulfills the Father’s commands. All who touched it were healed—not because of any magical power in the tassel itself, but because of their faith in him who wore it. Here, as often in Mark’s healing narratives (Mark 5:23, 34; 10:52), physical healing is an anticipatory sign of salvation in the full sense, since the same verb, sōzō, can be translated “heal” or “save.”

Scripture Reflection

Friends, today’s Gospel reports Jesus healing many people at Gennesaret. We hear that people brought the sick from all over the region and all of them were cured. “Whatever villages or towns or countryside he entered, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and begged him that they might touch only the tassel on his cloak; and as many as touched it were healed.”

It’s hard to deny that Jesus was known as a healer and a miracle worker. And there is also abundant evidence that the performance of miracles was a major reason why the first preachers were taken seriously.

In addition to miracles, we also have the witness of martyrs. Today marks the memorial of St. Agatha, who died in fidelity to Christ. But her death wasn’t in vain. Her witness continues to shine throughout Sicily and across the world.

Miracles and martyrs: two beacons of light that illuminate the truth of Jesus Christ..

– Bishop Robert Barron

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.