5th Sunday in Ordinary Time

My Dear People, 

We continue the readings of Mark’s Gospel dealing with the beginning of Jesus’ ministry.  In last week’s gospel, Jesus performed the first exorcism. This is directly followed by the first physical healing—another visible manifestation of the presence of the kingdom. The Gospels explain illness being closely related to demonic oppression as part of the condition of fallen humanity, and a sign of Satan’s domination over human beings, from which Jesus came to liberate all of us (See Matt. 12:22; Mark 9:20, 25; Luke 13:16). 

After the synagogue service, Jesus enters the house of Simon and Andrew. Archeologists have unearthed the probable remains of this house near the synagogue in Capernaum under the ruins of an ancient church that was built over the site. The house consists of a cluster of small rooms built of basalt rock surrounding an open courtyard that was probably shared by the extended family. Now that the disciples have committed themselves to share the life and destiny of Jesus, they enter the homes and take an interest in the intimate concerns of family life.  Simon’s mother-in-law is bedridden with fever probably caused by malaria, which would be life-threatening. The severity of the illness is shown by the woman’s inability to carry out the demands of hospitality for her honored guest. The disciples respond and immediately tell Jesus about it without knowing what He is going to do. Jesus’ healings often involve physical contact with the patient, usually a personal and consoling touch. In this case, He grasped the mother’s  hand and helped her up (literally “raised her up,” the same word used for his own resurrection, 16:6). This woman’s recovery from illness is a foreshadowing of the resurrection on the last day (12:24-26). Her immediate reaction is a model of discipleship. She waited on and served them.  The Greek verb, diakoneò, later becomes a standard term for Christian ministry (Acts 6:2), from which we derive the word “deacon.”  It is what Jesus himself said He came to do: “not to be served but to serve” (Mark 10:45). The right response to an experience of Jesus’ healing power is to begin to extend oneself in service to Him and His disciples, that is, to the Church.  

The first exorcism and first healing sparks the first gathering of crowds around Jesus. He is now a public figure, sought after by all who labor under the debilitating effects of sin. The people wait until after sunset because of  Sabbath regulations prohibiting carrying over of burdens. In Jewish reckoning, the day begins at sunset (Gen 1:5.; Lev 23:32), so the sabbath runs from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday.   The people seek Jesus’ help for their most basic, practical needs—health for themselves and their loved ones—and He responds without a hint of reproach.   The work of healing, in all its senses, is at the heart of his messianic mission. The Greek verb for cured, is the root of the word therapy, and often implies treating or taking care of the sick.  The implication may be that Jesus spent time ministering tenderly to each afflicted person.

“Many” does not imply that some were not healed, but simply that a large number is involved. 

The exorcism in the synagogue earlier that day (1:27) was the start of a bellowing rout, as the demons flee helplessly before Jesus’ command. Again, He forbids them to speak, because they would disclose His identity and at an inopportune time and in the wrong way. 

For Mark, healing and casting out demons are of central importance in Jesus’ ministry. They serve as his audiovisual aids, making the presence of the kingdom real and perceptible, and as such they are inseparably linked to the proclamation of the gospel, both for Jesus and for his disciples (6:12-13; 16:15-18). Jesus calls himself the physician (2:17) and His mission is to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10; see John 3:17; 12:47).          

 Yours in Christ,

Fr Vincent Clemente


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