Back in the 1990s, the slang phrase “you go girl” became a popular form of encouragement. Whether you got a promotion, an engagement ring or half off at Macy’s, you could usually expect at least one of your friends to laud your good fortune with these three words.
Other expressions (most of which I don’t know) are now more in vogue, but in its heyday, “you go girl” was quite hip — and occasionally controversial, as feminists debated whether this fashionable use of “girl” was somehow demeaning.
I’d never given the matter much thought, nor had I actually used the phrase too often, but I found it popping into my head during a recent Mass as I listened to the Gospel account of the woman with the issue of blood.
Matthew, Mark and Luke each narrate how a woman with hemorrhages pressed through a crowd to touch Jesus’ cloak, whereupon she was instantly cured (Mt 9:20-22, Mk 5:25-34, Lk 8:43-48). Given that she had been suffering “for twelve years,” and (as Mark and Luke add) had spent her livelihood on doctors without benefit, her relief was surely all the more profound.
In their texts, Mark and Luke detail how Jesus sensed that “power had gone out from him” but didn’t appear to know to whom, and asked those nearby until the woman herself admitted her actions, for which the Lord blessed her.
Even as she departed — free of the malady that would have rendered her unclean and in some manner an outcast — others on the scene were certainly anxious and quite possibly annoyed. After all, the woman had interrupted another request for a healing: one made by Jairus, a synagogue official whose daughter was dying.
Jesus had been on his way to save the child when this woman threaded her way through the crowd and delayed matters. A hiss or a tongue cluck might have been heard as the woman told Jesus her story, causing those in the crowd to realize that they’d brushed elbows with someone who was ritually impure.
Personally, I can relate to this unnamed woman, having myself endured some two and a half decades of endometriosis, which took not one but two surgeries to eliminate. Over the years, the condition had caused me no small discomfort and quite a bit of embarrassment. Given what I saw as my body’s betrayal, along with some deep-rooted insecurities, I can well imagine the isolation she must have felt.
Yet as lonely, frustrated and depressed as she may have been, this woman refused to give up — not when doctors failed, not when crowds pushed her back, not when someone else’s prayer for healing seemed to take precedence, not when “fear and trembling” seized her upon Jesus’ insistence in learning her identity.
And for that, the Lord commended her with his own version of “you go girl,” but in words that will far outlast any fad phrase: “Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace” (Lk 8:48).
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