The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home
February 4, 2024 – Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Mark 1:29-39
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Today’s gospel invites us to think about the life of Jesus once he began his public ministry. In brief, he spent his time teaching and healing the various ills of ordinary people. We are taken first to the home of Peter’s mother-in-law, a fitting start for the work of Jesus. Scholars have called our attention to three interesting aspects of this narrative.
First, since Peter had a mother-in-law, he must have been married. Although nothing more about this is ever mentioned in the gospels. Second, “they” (not Peter) requested the help of Jesus regarding her “fever.” Jesus reacted and she was made healthy. And third, once back to her normal self, she waited on them. Jesus helped her and she helped others. This creates what might be called “a circle of service.” We are helped by God, and we respond by helping others.
I have written many words that appear in these Nazareth Pages about our responsibility to help others. Much of this “ministry” happens within our families, but it is certainly not limited to that setting. We are on the alert each day for opportunities to help friends, neighbors, or whoever crosses our path. Some of those receiving our assistance we already know, and some will be strangers. Some will live close to us, and others at a distance.
We help from our abundance that we recognise as ultimately coming from God who created us and supports us through all our days and nights. Like Peter’s mother-in-law did. Having been gifted by Jesus, she in turn gifts others.
Today’s gospel also describes the presence of “demons” along with Jesus freeing people from their influence or power. Biblical scholars often mention their presence in people of that time. Does this imply some form of satanic presence? Perhaps. But they also note that many believed that the world, including personal lives, were under the influence of outside forces that were not beneficial. Since their presence often caused unfavorable results, they were described as “evil.” And in some cases, they were just “bad ideas.”
Jesus responded to this situation in two ways. He cared for those afflicted, and he taught them about the love and goodness of God. This same kind of response was to be imitated by all those who attached themselves to Jesus. In other words, his disciples or followers, like you and me. We are not to be indifferent to the needs of others. We are alert to whenever we can help others in whatever way we can. And we do it!
David M. Thomas, PhD