Scripture Reading for Today: Mark 1:29-39 (read it here)
Simon’s mother-in-law is sick, and Jesus heals her. A fever might not sound serious to us, but it was different in that pre-penicillin word. People died of infections that caused the fevers. This woman’s illness is no trifling matter.
Mark does not mention Simon’s wife, and his mother-in-law assumes the role of hostess, suggesting that she is either the only woman or the chief woman in this household.
Earlier, in the synagogue, Jesus exorcised a demon. Nothing was mentioned there about the faith of the man whose demon was exorcised, and nothing is said here of this woman’s faith.
When exorcising the demon, Jesus used words. Now he uses touch. Jesus’ touch is gentle and helpful, but unorthodox. In that culture, men did not touch women (except family members). Jesus, however, often touches people who need healing—even a leper whom he cannot touch without becoming unclean himself.
While Jesus has just performed an exorcism, this is his first miracle in the Gospel of Mark.
The mother-in-law, once healed, begins to serve the men. Some today find this story offensive because of the woman’s servant role. But note that Jesus honors women by making Peter’s mother-in-law the subject of this Gospel’s first miracle. And Jesus will also raise Jairus’ daughter from the dead and will heal a woman with a hemorrhage.
Peter’s mother-in-law was probably embarrassed at her inability to serve as a proper hostess. Jesus relieves her anxiety by healing her and enabling her to carry on her normal activities.
A typical miracle also includes some sort of confirmation that the healing took place. In his case, the woman’s service provides that confirmation. She is well enough to resume normal activities.
The people wait until evening, when the Sabbath is officially over, to bring those who are sick and possessed to Jesus for healing. Just imagine the desperation of these people. Some have children or spouses who are sick unto death. Others have loved ones who cannot engage in normal activity because of a handicap—husbands who cannot work and children who cannot play with friends.
They live in a world that affords little in the way of remedies. They hear rumors that there is a great healer at the synagogue and quickly carry their infirm loved ones to Jesus’ doorstep— hoping against hope.
We would think that Jesus would be tired from his long day of preaching, healing, and exorcism, but he gets up well before sunrise to pray and to find strength from the One in whose service he has come.
In the Eucharist Christ gives us his Body and Blood to raise us up from our infirmities and gives us the pledge of final salvation.
Let us also be attentive to those who are sick.
In imitation of Mary, let us never neglect prayer and meditation on God’s word. Because we are busy, we need to pray more.
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Let us make this a blessed day.
Keep Jesus in your mind and heart and share him with all you meet.
Fr. Michael Brizio, IMC
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