The pace of the first chapter of St. Mark’s Gospel could be called frenetic, even furious. Jesus is baptized by John, calls four disciples, teaches in a synagogue, and expels an unclean spirit. Then he enters the house of Simon and raises up Simon’s mother-in-law. After the sun sets, Jesus is still found healing, curing, and casting out demons. Early the next morning he retires for prayer, but his new disciples deliver the message that he is being sought in the town by others who need his healing touch. Chapter one will include yet another miraculous healing. The zeal for God’s kingdom is very evident in the furious pace that Jesus sets for himself.
However, something else is very evident. Jesus also demonstrates that he is willing to stretch the boundaries of cultural convention. He touches a man with an unclean spirit and in so doing incurs the ritual impurity. Simon’s mother-in-law is out of place. She should have been in the home of her husband. If she was a widow, she should be living with her eldest son. If she had no sons, she should have returned to the home of her father or his older brother. The Gospel does not tell us why she is in the home of her daughter, but she is definitely out of place.
Then Jesus enters the place where she lay with a fever. Men didn’t enter the women’s quarters in family homes. He reaches out and lifts her up. She in turn begins to serve. All of these details tell us that Jesus is not about to let cultural boundaries stand in his way to inaugurate the Kingdom of God.
Jesus’ mission, and by extension, our mission, is to preach, to heal, to raise up, to make disciples, and to accomplish all this while maintaining a spirit of prayer and devotion. Prayer refuels Jesus’ energy and recharges the Spirit that he received at his baptism. This Spirit has been shared with us? Does our prayer recharge us for the work that we are called to do? Are we filled with zeal for God’s kingdom? Even those who have been slowed down by the weight of years are charged to reveal God’s kingdom through the example we offer others in our lives of prayer and mercy and kindness.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator