43Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years; and though she had spent all she had on physicians, no one could cure her. 44She came up behind him and touched the fringe of his clothes, and immediately her hemorrhage stopped. 45Then Jesus asked, “Who touched me?” When all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the crowds surround you and press in on you.” 46But Jesus said, “Someone touched me; for I noticed that power had gone out from me.” 47When the woman saw that she could not remain hidden, she came trembling; and falling down before him, she declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him, and how she had been immediately healed. 48He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.”
The sixth station of the Stations of the Cross, named Veronica Wipes the Face of Jesus, does not come directly from Scripture but rather from the hearts and the traditions of the early European Christians. Tradition holds that Jesus healed a young woman named Veronica in his early ministry and as a sign of her deep and abiding gratitude for him, she accompanied him to the place of his execution. When she wiped his sweating face along this walk, the imprint of his face supposedly remained on the cloth. Eusebius, in his Historia Ecclesiastica, tells how at Caesarea Philippi lived the woman who Jesus healed of the blood disorder. In the West, she was identified as Martha of Bethany; in the East, she was called Berenike, or Beronike, the name appearing in the Acts of Pilate. The derivation of the name Veronica comes from the words “Vera Icon”, or “true image”.
This man had shown her great compassion when she thought there was none. The bleeding had started and had never stopped. And so, always, she was deemed unclean and, therefore, unacceptable, untouchable, shunned. This was a last effort to claim her life, to become a person of value and worth again in a society that so carefully laid out who was acceptable and who was not. She had, carefully, made her way through the crowds that day avoiding the stares and recoils that others held for her. And then she touched him. It was only a touch but she could feel something. She cowered back into the crowd trying to hide. But he saw her, compelling her forward and her life was never the same again.
And so on this day, she could not just hide out in the crowd. He needed someone–companionship, mercy, compassion. She didn’t care what she was risking. After all, this is the one who had given her her life. She could do this one thing. And when she wiped his face, she felt that same burst of power that she had felt before, a life-giving, life-awakening power. And she was left with the image of Christ.
Whether we take this literally or not, whether we believe that she was healed or that Christ’s imprint adhered to a cloth, is not the point. You see, each of us was made in the image of God. We are not destined to BE God but to be an image, a reflection of the Godself into the world and into the lives of each and every one that we meet. And when we show compassion, when we show mercy, when we step forward and show love to those who need it the most, the imprint of that image DOES stay with us. We become a reflection of the Christ, an image of the God who gave us life and calls us to show it to the world. And as Jesus walked toward death, the image of the Christ remained, no longer hidden, on the one who reached out to one in need. Reaching out to others does not mean that we are Christ; it means that we are human, fully human, the way Christ showed us to be.
So in this season of darkness and shadows, remain no longer hidden but step forward into this Walk of Christ and help someone in need. And the imprint of Christ, the image of the very Godself, will stay with you always.
Grace and Peace,