Mark 1: 29-39
Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Sister Mary Ann Cook, SNDdeN
February 7, 2021
Today’s gospel is from the fast-paced first chapter of Mark. In rapid succession, Mark has had Jesus baptized in the Jordan, tempted in the desert, preaching with authority, gathering disciples, and driving out an unclean spirit. Already by verse 28, Jesus’s “fame” has “spread everywhere.”
In Verse 29, Jesus enters Simon and Andrew’s house, where Simon’s wife’s mother is “sick with a fever.” Immediately, they tell him about her. And just as immediately, Jesus grasps her hand and helps her up: “The fever left her and she waited on them.”
Notice: Simon and Andrew bring Jesus into their house. They tell him about a desperately ill member of the family, and bring him to her side. It’s in response to their love and concern for her and their trust in him that Jesus heals her. Notice also that once cured, “she waited on them.” In other words, she joined the rest of the family in welcoming Jesus and his disciples into their home which, by evening, will become a gathering place for the whole town.
The scene’s meaning expands even more if we reflect on Mark’s account in the context of today’s other readings. Let’s take a look. The first reading, from the book of Job, is a cry from the depths of a tortured soul: “I have been assigned months of misery, and troubled nights . . . . My days . . . come to an end without hope. I shall not see happiness again” (Job 7: 1-4, 6-7). The Responsorial Psalm leads us from Job’s despair to a bold assertion of trust in God’s abiding love for “the brokenhearted,” even in the midst of profound suffering (Ps. Psalm 147: 1-6): “Praise the Lord, who heals the brokenhearted. . . . The LORD rebuilds Jerusalem; the dispersed of Israel he gathers. He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds . . . .” In the second reading, Paul exemplifies unqualified, compassionate solidarity with all who are in need of healing, liberation and hope: “Although I am free in regard to all, I have made myself a slave to all so as to win over as many as possible. To the weak I became weak, to win over the weak. I have become all things to all, to save at least some” (I Cor. 9: 16-19, 22-23). Paul’s zeal serves to remind us that all who are baptized into Christ are called to be partners in the mission of Christ. “All this I do for the sake of the Gospel,” he writes, “so that I too may have a share in it.”
It’s within this rich frame of reference that today’s gospel shows us “the whole town” gathering at the door of Simon and Andrew’s house and – more importantly — bringing along to Jesus all who are unable to come on their own because “they are ill or possessed by demons.”
To sum up, today’s Liturgy of the Word first confronts us with the depths of human suffering—so evident in our world today. Then it challenges us to trust the power of God’s abiding love to rebuild, gather, and heal all that is broken. Next it goes on to remind us that God works on this earth in partnership with us: Jesus heals all the people his disciples and “the whole town” bring to him. The Gospel, in particular, calls us to compassionate solidarity with all of our sisters and brothers, whether down the street or across the world, who are in need of healing, liberation and hope.
At Eucharist on this 5th Sunday of Ordinary Time, let’s bring not just “the whole town,” but the whole world to Jesus in prayer: our sisters and brothers dying of COVID-19, medical professionals and essential workers near burnout, families grieving the loss of loved ones; parents with no livelihood facing hunger and homelessness with their children; immigrants in dread of deportation; refugee families denied sanctuary; civilians trapped in war zones; people held down by systemic racism . . . . The list is endless. And when we’re sent forth to live what we have heard, professed and celebrated, let’s extend a helping hand to sisters and brothers within our reach who can’t “get there” on their own—maybe shop for a neighbor who can’t make it to the grocery store, or help someone without a computer to land an appointment to be vaccinated. Through, with and in Christ, let’s be living signs and instruments of Christ’s saving love!
Mark 1: 29-39
On leaving the synagogue, Jesus went with James and John straight to the house of Simon and Andrew. Now Simon’s mother-in-law had gone to bed with fever, and they told him about her straightaway. He went to her, took her by the hand and helped her up. And the fever left her and she began to wait on them.
That evening, after sunset, they brought to him all who were sick and those who were possessed by devils. The whole town came crowding round the door, and he cured many who were suffering from diseases of one kind or another; he also cast out many devils, but he would not allow them to speak, because they knew who he was.
In the morning, long before dawn, he got up and left the house, and went off to a lonely place and prayed there. Simon and his companions set out in search of him, and when they found him they said, “Everybody is looking for you.” He answered, “Let us go there too, because that is why I came.” And he went all through Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out devils.
The Gospel of the Lord
Meet Sister Mary Ann Cook, SNDdeN