Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time
“Laudato Si’ Journey – Sunday Gospel”
Sunday, February 4th
V SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME – CYCLE B
Mk 1, 29-39
The Gospel of Mark on this fifth Sunday brings the description of Jesus’ first day to a close. We have already seen the accelerated pace of the first verses, as if animated by an impatience to move and to spread the good news. Now we see the effects of the mission.
It seems as if Jesus is moved by the cry of suffering humanity and is able to find incredible energy to listen to this cry. Editorially speaking, the second part of the piece also offers us indications of tempo and highlights the fast pace of events. How beautiful it would be for all humanity if we could learn this desire to do good from Jesus!
“On leaving the synagogue” connects us to last Sunday’s Gospel and Jesus’ authoritative teaching. The mission on the streets of the world is urgent and therefore there is εὐθὺς, an “immediacy” reminding us that the day is short and there is much to do. We leave a synagogue, we do not remain in the place of prayer but realize that every place in Creation is an ideal space for meeting with Jesus. It is He who has a strong desire to meet us, everywhere and anywhere.
The first miracle that Jesus performs in Mark’s gospel is a miracle of relationships and the dignity of women. He is not alone, but in the company of Simon and Andrew, James and John. They leave the synagogue and immediately go into a house. That house shows how intimate or personal it can be when someone comes to visit us at home… we become anxious because we want everything to be in order… to be just right! Imagine God coming to visit us at home… or in our common home!
However, in this house, which belongs to Simon and Andrew, there is a problem: “Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever”. Imagine poor Peter, taken by surprise by Jesus stopping by and he not having any time to fix up the house. Indeed, unlike James and John who had servants, Simon had his mother-in-law at home. Jesus immediately enters into family relationships: brothers, children, wives—Peter evidently was married—and visits us in our daily lives, bringing dignity to our relationships. This woman has a fever—apparently nothing too serious and certainly not an incurable disease. Mark does not tell us what illness the mother-in-law had, but only that she had a fever. Similarly, when our common home has a fever we often debate the causes.
Before performing the miracle, “they immediately told him about her“. Who knows why? perhaps to justify the mess in the house! First of all, there is a relationship, a sense of knowing. Consequently, “He approached“, because it is always Jesus who comes to meet us, “and helped her up” – literally ἤγειρεν which is the same verb used for “resurrect” – “grasped her hand“. The gesture of taking her by the hand, more precisely κρατήσας τῆς ⸀χειρός “taking hold of the hand”, almost as if God desperately needs this woman’s service. First, Jesus accompanies the hand in service, then the woman is resurrected and brought into a new creation. Then, she fully fulfills her (renewed) reason for being by immediately starting to serve those present. The house starts to function again – and therefore also the Church, and our common home – thanks to the daily service of people like this woman, meanwhile, we “regular visitors” often watch the scene from the sidelines just as the apostles did.
The story then continues with an editorial passage, acting as a link to the next part, in which there is the story of the leper. In this passage, seemingly secondary, the end of the first day of mission in Mark’s Gospel is told. The disproportion is striking because throughout the day Jesus had freed a possessed man and healed a woman from fever, “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.” Then, in the evening time when the day should be over, the heaviest work-load for Jesus arrives. Starting from a single house, then into the streets of the city, to end up at the village gate.
The city gate represents human limitation—that limitation that we all recognize when we look at our own fragility. It’s the same limitation that forces man and woman to try to cover themselves up by making leather belts in the Garden of Eden. It is in the hour of darkness while in the company of Sister Moon and Sister Stars, “He cured many who were sick with various diseases,” as if to remind us that even when we think that our mission is ‘off duty’, we can always trust in the Lord. Yet again, without resting, Jesus tries to recharge his batteries through praying late into the night. Praying in the midst of Creation, in a deserted place, far from temptation and confusion.
The apostles represent temptation for Jesus. First they pursue him, actually κατεδίωξεν αὐτὸν, that is, they followed his trail almost like one goes after thieves. On finding him, they report that “Everyone is looking for you!”, as if to highlight how important Jesus is becoming for everyone—seemingly a great accomplishment for Jesus! But He has other ideas and desires rather than his own personal glory. In fact, he replies: “Let us go on to the nearby villages.” Jesus does not want to take possession of a place, but desires freedom for each of us and the more people that can be reached by this message, the more he adheres to his mission: “For this purpose have I come”.
Let us pray to the Lord today, on this Sunday, so that we joyfully welcome the invitation to the service proposed by St.Clare of Assisi, who said to the Poor Clares: “Loving one another with the charity of Christ, may the love you have in your hearts be shown outwardly in your deeds so that, compelled by such an example, the Sisters may always grow in love of God and in charity for one another” (FF 2847).
We warmly wish you a good Sunday, accompanied by the word of the Lord!