We are healed by the wounds of Christ
Posted: Thu, 04 Feb 2021 12:52
A reflection on the Gospel for 5th Sunday of the year, Mark 1: 29-39, by Fr Gerry O'Shaughnessy SDB. Image by Marcello Cerrato via Qumran2.net
Some years ago, the 'Sunday Times Magazine' ran a weekly feature called 'A Day in the Life of...' It featured a popular celebrity of time describing a typical day in their busy schedule. In many ways, this is what Mark is attempting to do in today's gospel reading. We have the initial presentation of Jesus joining Peter in a visit to his home—what a natural and all-too-human picture of Jesus being with friends, enjoying hospitality.
While we do not meet Peter's wife and children, we are introduced to his wife's mother, who is ill with a fever. The response of Jesus is to challenge pain and sickness and bring healing, while the response of the woman is to serve and help. Peter's mother-in-law helps us to fully understand our own personal response to Jesus' healing in our lives. The care we receive, the forgiveness we receive, and the understanding we receive all help our generosity to bloom. Her response is that of a disciple; in her availability, she is living out what the gospel asks of each of us. She is raised to the status of disciple, as one who serves the Lord both physically and spiritually. It is the transformative moment of her life: she is forever changed. And we can be too, by allowing Jesus to take us by the hand, to lift us up, and to restore us to the wholeness of body, mind, and spirit that only comes through faith in him.
Today also helps us to reflect on the strength of the extended family—what a joy for Peter's children to have their granny live with them! What a sacrifice Peter has to make in that immediate response to follow Jesus as his Lord and Master! As we reflected on call and vocation last week, it is important to realise that our very first Pope was married; we need to reflect on the fact that there has been a long tradition of married priesthood within the Roman Catholic Church. We must also remember that, in recent years, many former married Anglican clergy have become priests after their conversion to Catholicism. In the wonderful vocational mix that is Catholic priesthood, let us thank God for variety and realise that a married clergy bring insights and depth that a purely celebrate priesthood cannot possibly understand.
As the working day wears on in Peter's neighbourhood, the people realise the power and the gift that they have in their town. They bring their sick and troubled to meet with Jesus and be enlivened by his word and actions. Jesus turns nobody away, and we are introduced to an important aspect of Mark's gospel: the evil spirits are silenced 'because they know who he is'! Throughout the gospel, Jesus is not recognised: rather he is despised by the Pharisees, Scribes, Priests and leaders of the people—yet here at the start, the forces of darkness realise his mission. You may meet those forces of evil in this coming week; those who cannot accept your kindness and care; those who will not only reject your love, but actively do all they can to undermine you. They could be so caught up in their need for healing that cannot recognise very the Body of Christ alive in their own home or place of work.
When this day of action draws to a close, Jesus needs time for prayer—he is the contemplative in action. Without this needed time with his Father, his ministry is pure activism. Jesus is not a wonderful social worker, he is an enabler; he, too, needs a fullness of relationship and quality time with the Father. Today's gospel invites us to spend quality time with a loving Father too. Contemplation allows you to see yourself in the context of the whole world and your total community. You see beyond yourself and learn a deeper appreciation for the world and humanity, as well as cementing a solid friendship with God. Simon and the search party soon come to realise that this preacher who invited them to join ministry, cannot sit comfortably by. They could be a great success in their own little village just healing and praying for their families, friends and neighbours—it could be nice and cosy. However, Jesus has other plans as he urgently sets out to bring that preaching and healing to others—he asks them to set out into the unknown with trust and confidence.
This 'day in the life' ends with movement forward to the other towns and villages of Galilee. As we continue to see what this pandemic is asking of us, may our contemplative gaze be rooted firmly on those at the edges of our society; as Pope Francis reminds us:
We can only enter the heart of God through the wounds of Christ, and we know that Christ is wounded in the hungry, the uneducated, the discarded, the old, the sick, the imprisoned, in all the vulnerable human flesh.
Pope Francis, Message to the World Christian Life Community, 21/07/2018
Fr Gerry O'Shaughnessy SDB