Franciscan Friar Fr. Paul Gallagher reflects on the Gospel text for the Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time. Are you able to recall incidences from the Gospels that help you become aware of how the people of Jesus’ day dealt with people who were contagious?
The content is edited by Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity Sister Anne Marie Lom and Joe Thiel. The excerpts from the Sunday readings are prepared by Joe Thiel. To read or download the complete pdf with excerpts for your prayer, please click here Franciscan Gospel Reflection February 4 2024 Excerpts are from the Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States of America, second typical edition © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC. Used with permission. All rights reserved. No portion of this text may be reproduced by any means without permission in writing from the copyright owner. Photos: John Bridges, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons; Nheyob, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
On leaving the synagogue Jesus entered the house of Simon and Andrew with James and John. Simon’s mother-in-law lay sick with a fever. They immediately told him about her. He approached, grasped her hand, and helped her up. Then the fever left her and she waited on them.
When it was evening, after sunset, they brought to him all who were ill or possessed by demons. The whole town was gathered at the door. He cured many who were sick with various diseases, and he drove out many demons, not permitting them to speak because they knew him.
Rising very early before dawn, he left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed.
Simon and those who were with him pursued him and on finding him said, “Everyone is looking for you.” He told them, “Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also. For this purpose have I come.” So he went into their synagogues, preaching and driving out demons throughout the whole of Galilee.
Last Sunday, the Gospel described Jesus’ arrival in Capernaum and him going to the synagogue on the Sabbath. Jesus took his turn to teach, and also cast an unclean spirit out of a man. Twice, those present remarked in amazement that Jesus was teaching with a new kind of authority (Mark 1:27). The text for last week ended, “His fame spread everywhere throughout the whole region of Galilee.” (Mark 1:28)
The text for this week follows immediately after last week’s Gospel and records four events. The events are told with sparse detail: Jesus cures Simon’s mother-in-law, Jesus cures those who are brought to him from the town that evening, he seeks out a place of solitude to pray, and finally he speaks with Simon about the priorities of his mission.
After Jesus leaves the synagogue, which suggests that it is still the Sabbath, he enters the house of Simon. They immediately tell Jesus about Simon’s mother-in-law, and he goes to her, touches her, and restores her to health. In their understanding, illness was associated with the power that death had over a person. The word used to describe the healing is “ederiro” which means “raised up,” an expression that is typically used in accounts of the resurrection. Peter’s mother-in-law then begins to wait on them. The word here is “diagoneo” which is not the word that would describe the typical service roles of women of the day. Rather, the term denotes “service within the community.” As Jesus did in last week’s Gospel, he demonstrates his power over an evil that threatens life. Peter’s mother-in-law is freed to minister to the community.
In the second scenario, Mark describes how Jesus’ reputation has spread throughout the area and now people are bringing the sick to him. The crowds wait until after the sun has set when the Sabbath has ended. Jesus continues to act like a folk healer of the day who is willing to risk engaging the sickness and evil spirits that are afflicting people.
In a single verse Mark describes Jesus intentionally withdrawing from others to be able to pray. The verb here carries the connotation that his intention is for an “extended time away.”
In the final verses, Simon and the others go looking for Jesus. Their statement, “everyone is looking for you,” suggests that they think he should return to those who are seeking him. Jesus responds by saying he intends to go to other villages to preach. The text ends with a statement summing up Jesus’ ministry in the area as preaching and driving out demons.
Last week the Gospel brought to light a contrast between the evil spirits, who knew who Jesus was, and the crowd and disciples who were all left asking, “What is this?” (Mark 1: 27) This week, the contrast is between the disciples, who think they know Jesus and his mission, and Jesus, who knows that he must get away from that crowd in order to pray and then move on to other villages and minister to those who need to hear his message.
- How has the pandemic affected your daily life? How does it affect your willingness to be around the sick and those who might be contagious?
- Are you able to recall incidences from the Gospels that help you become aware of how the people of Jesus’ day dealt with people who were contagious?
- Reflecting on today’s Gospel, what are some of the values that seem to matter the most to Jesus, Peter’s mother-in-law, the neighbors, and the disciples?
- What do you think might have been some of the things that Jesus brought to prayer that morning?
- What do you think the disciples thought when Jesus told them in so many words that he was not going back to Capernaum but going to other villages and towns?
- Has God ever surprised or disappointed you by how God seemed to be responding to you?
- Do you know people who felt like they needed to abandon some successful aspect of their life in order to do what they felt God was calling them to do?
- Jesus seems to have walked away from curing people who were coming to him back in Capernaum, in order to preach to others. Have you ever felt like God had walked away from you and your needs?
- Can you take some time to talk with God about whatever arose in you as you reflected on this section of the Gospel?