Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Mark 1:29-39

On leaving the synagogue Jesus entered the house of Simon and Andrew with James and John. Simon’s mother-in-law lay sick with fever. They immediately told him about her. He approached, grasped her hand, and helped her up. Then the fever left her and she waited on them. When it was evening, after sunset, they brought to him all who were ill or possessed by demons. The whole town was gathered at the door. He cured many who were sick with various diseases, and he drove out many demons, not permitting them to speak because they knew him. Rising very early before dawn, he left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed. Simon and those who were with him pursued him and on finding him said, “Everyone is looking for you.” He told them, “Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also. For this purpose have I come.” So he went into their synagogues, preaching and driving out demons throughout the whole of Galilee.

Two things strike me in this Sunday’s Gospel. First, Jesus’ continued ministry of healing extends to Simon’s mother-in-law. She is ill with a fever. She cannot manage her daily living, her chores, her obligation to hospitality. For her, in her time, this would be a terrible thing. As a member of the family, of the household Jesus was visiting, extending hospitality was a serious obligation. You didn’t let a friend or guest come into your home without feeding them, offering them drink, even washing the dust from the roads off of their feet. Like Abraham, you might be entertaining angels!

Jesus heals her, and her first thought is for taking care of others. She is possibly the least self-centered person I’ve heard of. Think about it, if Jesus were to heal you or me, what would our response be? To get out of bed and start serving those around us? Most of the men in the Gospels who are healed by Jesus run off to tell others. Not Simon’s mother-in-law. It’s almost like she takes her healing at the hands of Jesus as a matter of course. Perhaps, even before her more illustrious son-in-law, she believed who Jesus was and the purpose of His mission. So, being healed by the Messiah is no strange thing! Why make such a fuss? No. Get up and simply be who you are, who you have always been. There’s a lesson in that for each of us, man or woman. St. Francis de Sales said, “Do not wish to be anything but what you are, and try to be that perfectly.” I think Simon’s mother-in-law is the embodiment of that.

The second thing that struck me was Jesus going off to pray before continuing His mission to the nearby villages. The disciples seem almost surprised by this. Why should they be? Do they not know that even the Son of Man must be in constant communication with His Father in order to have the energy to carry out His mission? Surely, Jesus knows this. We must remember this.

I recall the story a priest who forgot this. He was an extraordinarily popular priest, a great preacher, teacher, author and retreat master. He had just finished giving a weekend retreat and was on the plane flying home. For the first time all weekend, he had a chance to sit down, and it was then that he realized how exhausted he was and that he had not spent even five minutes during the retreat in personal prayer. Apparently, he didn’t learn the lesson from this, for he later left the priesthood.

We can do nothing without the support of prayer. Where do we think the grace comes from that strengthens us to carry out all that the Lord wants us to do? Do you think it comes from inside you? Of course not! That grace only comes from God, and to be strengthened by that grace requires regular communication with God in prayer. Jesus knew this. That is why He went alone to pray. We must remember this. We must set aside those times to be alone in prayer. It is the only way we will survive the onslaughts from this world and be able to carry out His will for our lives.

Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.

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