Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, 4th February 2024

Mark 1:29–39

As soon as they left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon's mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told Jesus about her at once. He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them. That evening, at sundown, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. And the whole city was gathered around the door. And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him. In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. And Simon and his companions hunted for him. When they found him, they said to him, “Everyone is searching for you.” He answered, “Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.” And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.

Commentary

Today’s Gospel reading is the follow-up of that of last Sunday. The reading of last Sunday told us Jesus preached in a synagogue in Capernaum on a Sabbath day. After his preaching, he healed a man with an unclean spirit and the unclean spirit recognized who Jesus is. But Jesus forbade him to tell anyone. Though the congregation at the synagogue did not recognize who Jesus is, they were amazed by his authority to teach and heal.

After the synagogue, Jesus and his four disciples, Peter, Andrew, John and James, entered the home of Peter. From the fact that Peter had a mother-in-law, we know Peter was married. However, the Gospel mentioned nothing about Peter’s wife. This could be that she had died by this time. It also explains why Peter’s mother-in-law was living in Peter’s house. She probably was taking care of Peter and Andrew. Therefore, it would be very weak to cite Peter’s marital status as a justification of discard celibacy among priests and religious.

Having witnessed how Jesus healed a man of unclean spirit in the synagogue, the disciples immediately told him about the illness of Peter’s mother-in-law. Jesus took her by the hand and lifted her up and the fever left her. With this simple action, Jesus cured Peter’s mother-in-law. And it took place on Sabbath day. None of the disciples, who observed Sabbath as any other good Jews, logged a complaint against Jesus working on Sabbath day. Though the disciples had yet to know who Jesus is, they had already sensed that there was something new and authoritative about Jesus.

Equally unconventional was Peter’s mother-in-law. She not only showed how effective was Jesus’ healing, but also engaged in busily preparing a meal and serving them. This was also against the observation of Sabbath. What did St. Mark try to tell us about all these? It is about the beginning of a new creation, where the old rules and laws will be replaced by God’s love.

As soon as the Sabbath was over at sundown, people who saw Jesus’ healing in the synagogue that morning, began to bring sick and possessed people to Peter’s house and asked Jesus to cure them. People from all Capernaum came to Peter’s house to see the miracle and the miracle-worker, Jesus, who did not disappoint those who came to his help.

After an evening of hard work, Jesus went to a deserted place outside of Capernaum to pray to his Father in solitude. If we pay attention to Gospel narratives, we would find that it is Jesus’ style to put himself in his Father’s hands before and after his preaching and healing missions. Could we find time to pray as Jesus does?

When the four disciples came to him, Jesus told them about his plan for the future. That was to bring the good news to all people in all places because this is his vocation and this is what incarnation for. From that every day, Jesus began to fulfill the role that his Father had destined for him. And it was through this fulfillment of his vocation Jesus gradually manifested himself that he is Christ, the Messiah.

Being Christians we are, do we see Jesus’ mission has an entirely different objective than that of ours? What keeps us not free from following Jesus? Do we serve others involving a willingness to serve as Peter’s mother-in-law? Pray that God grant us the grace to follow Jesus closer in our vocation. Amen.