Gospel: Mark 1:29-39
Preaching the Good News
What are the most important duties of daily life? What crises can upset those duties?
"I need to . . . " Have you ever noticed others define their daily lives by their duties? Busy schedules pile duty upon duty. Some are important. Some are frivolous. Of course, throw a minor crisis into a busy schedule and find out the true priority of duties. Illness could be that crisis, for it can break one's focus and challenge one's sense of balance. It can even turn priorities upside down.
Jesus came with one duty: to announce God's Kingdom. Along the way, he healed illness and relationships to advance the Kingdom. He came to set priorities right.
Jesus taught in the synagogue and healed the man possessed by a demon.
29 Then, Jesus and his followers left the synagogue. Along with James and John, they entered the house where Simon and Andrew lived. 30 But, Simon's mother-in-law was in bed, sick with a fever. At that moment, they told Jesus about her. 31 Jesus went to where she was laying down, took her by the hand, and raised her. The fever left her and she took care of them.
32 That evening, people kept bringing him anyone who was sick or was possessed by a demon. 33 It seemed the entire city gathered at the front door. 34 Jesus cured really sick people who had many different diseases. And Jesus freed people from demons. He would not allow the demons to speak through the people they possessed, because the demons knew who Jesus really was.
35 The next morning, long before dawn, Jesus got up and went out to pray alone. 36 Simon and the other three followers looked for Jesus. 37 When they found him, they told Jesus, "Everyone wants to see you."
38 "Let's go to the next town, so I can preach there," Jesus said. "This is the reason I came." 39 Throughout Galilee, Jesus preached in synagogues and freed people from demons.
In these passages, Mark again emphasized the power of Jesus' word. His word could heal (1:31 and 34), free people from demons (1:34 and 38), and proclaim the Good News (1:39). His word had the power to make people whole, return them to their place in family and society, and reconcile them to God. Spreading his word became the reason for his ministry.
29 Immediately leaving from the synagogue, they went into the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. 30 The mother-in-law of Simon was lying down, burning (with a fever). Immediately, they told HIM about her. 31 Approaching (her), HE raised her, having held (her) hand. And the fever left her. She served them.
31 " . . . he raised her up" meant he sat the woman up from a reclining position. The verb is a reference to resurrection.
In this gospel passage, Jesus first ministered to Simon's mother-in-law. In a male-dominated society of Jesus' time, the place of the woman was that of a servant. In addition, Mark implied Simon's mother-in-law was a widow without other family support, so her place in the family was tenuous. (Remember that a widow without family would be homeless.) This poor woman did not live with her husband's family or her immediate family, but with her son-in-law's family. Her place in the family was at the bottom of the pecking order. Without health, she could be seen as a burden on the family. And the family could easily dispose of such a "forgettable" person.
When Jesus sat the woman up, he did not merely heal her of a fever. He restored her function and place in the family. So he restored her self-esteem. [1:29-31]
32 Evening came when the sun set. They (kept) bringing HIM everyone having illness and the demon-possessed. 33 The entire city was gathered together at the door. 34 HE healed many very sick with various diseases and threw out many demons. HE was not permitting the demons to speak, because they had known HIM.
32 "They (kept) bringing him . . . " is literally "They were carrying to him . . . " The procession of people bringing their sick seemed to be endless.
"...everyone having illness . . . " is literally "all having badly." The adverb "badly" meant any ailment, except the demon-possessed.
"...demon-possessed" is literally "the ones being demonized." In the popular mind, these people fell to the enemy in spiritual warfare.
33 "The entire city was gathered together . . . " is literally "The entire city was, having been gathered together . . . " The Greek past tense of the verb "to be" ("was") plus the participle ("having been gathered") seems clumsy, but reflected the constant activity of the citizens around the building.
34 " . . . very sick with various illnesses" is literally " . . . having badly various illnesses." Jesus cured those with serious ailments.
"...because they had known HIM." The demons were not allowed to speak because they had a previous experience of Jesus. Since they could not speak, according to the logic of Jesus' contemporaries, they could not have power over Jesus.
Modern America approaches the sick in different ways. We treat those with diseases or disorders we understood with medicine (like cancer, HIV-AIDS, etc.). We make accommodations to include others with unchangeable conditions into society (the blind, the deaf, and the lame). We only isolate the sick in extreme cases for their safety (ICU in the hospital, for example), or for the safety of society (the psychotic in mental institutions).
The world of Jesus approached the sick as those afflicted by evil spirits that influenced the body and possessed the person. But the spirit world extended beyond the individual. The whole of society was affected. A spirit who possessed one person might extend its influence over others. Only benevolent spirits with greater power could have control over lesser, malevolent spirits. Hence, sickness fell into the realm of faith. If an appeal to divine power (or lesser spirits) could not address the issue, the sick were to be placed outside society to keep evil spirits at a distance. Isolation was far more pronounced in Jesus' time than in modern day America. People were cut off from family and friends. They had no place in society.
What Jesus did for Simon's mother-in-law, he could do for a village: restore loved ones back to their place in the family and in society. Notice Jesus healed the sick and expelled demons. He took a hands-on approach to situations that formal Judaism kept at arms' length. The ill and the possessed were "unclean" (not "kosher"). They were to live outside normal community life, as homeless. Jesus came to change their ailment and their status. Jesus came not only to make the person whole. He came to restore everyone's place in society. [1:32-34a] Even the spirits who the contemporaries of Jesus believed were at the root of sickness and possession could not overcome the "holy One of God." [1:34b]
35 The (next) morning, while it was still very dark, rising up, HE left and went out to a deserted place. There HE was praying. 36 Simon and those with him tracked HIM down. 37 They found HIM and said to HIM, "Everyone is looking for you." 38 He said to them, "Let us go elsewhere, into the next village, so I might also preach there. For this is the reason I came." 39 He went preaching in their synagogues throughout Galilee, and throwing out demons.
35 "The (next) morning, while it was very still dark . . . " is literally "Morning, very (much) at night . . . " Jesus rose to pray long before dawn.
"...rising up . . . " is literally "standing up." The noun form of this verb means "resurrection."
37 "Everyone is looking for you" is literally "All seek you." Jesus was still the object of everyone's desires.
38 " . . . into the next village" is literally " to (places) having villages." The construction of the Greek participle referred to neighboring villages or towns.
"For this is the reason I came" is literally "For into this (reason) I came out." Preaching was the reason of his ministry in Galilee.
Actually Jesus was only one of many folk healers. Mark stressed the difference between these healers and Jesus in the power of his word. As we saw last week, Jesus did not need the incantations or the list of names for exorcisms other healers needed. The power of his word, his message, revealed his power.
More important, Jesus' word not only healed the person and returned him or her to a proper place in society. His word returned the person to a proper place before God. That was the essence of the Good News. That was the reason for his ministry in Galilee, later in Jerusalem. That was the reason for his death. And that was the power of his resurrection.
In a priority of ministry, Jesus came to preach the Good News. As a result of his preaching, the power of his word made people right. Right with God. Right with each other. Right with themselves. In that order. [1:35-39]
Catechism Message: The Anointing of the Sick: Part 1 (CCC 1499-1505)
Illness reminds us of our finite nature. It limits our social interaction and our ability to serve others. Illness brings the end of our existence in clear view. It forces us to answer the ultimate questions of our purpose on earth.
Illness presents us with a choice. To reject God and the hope he brings. Or, to believe. Illness can provoke us to follow the path to spiritual death. Or, it can lead us to forgiveness, healing, and inspiration for others. In other words, illness can bring us and others to God. Illness can evangelize.
Christ came to show us the way to wholeness. He came to heal our bodies, our hearts, and our spirits. He heals in many different ways, but his healing always serves a greater purpose: faith. He heals as a way to announce the Kingdom of God.
When we suffer from illness, or serve others who are sick, we, too, are called to announce God's reign.
Reflect on an illness you have had. How did that illness challenge you? Did it increase your faith? Was the Lord close to you? Or did he feel distant? Explain.
Get right with the Lord. If we listen for the words of the Lord in health or in sickness or in social isolation, he still delivers the same message. When we stand before God as his beloved, we experience healing. The healing may be at different levels and at different times, but we do experience a sense of wholeness. When we get right with the Lord, we get right with others and ourselves.
Get right with the Lord. Our duty, our challenge, is to pass that message onto others through our words and healing deeds.
Last week, you got ready to hear the Lord and feel his healing touch. What happened in the last week to confirm that prayer? How can you pass that prayer onto others this week?