There is a sense of urgency in the Gospel we hear today. We hear that when Jesus, James and John left the synagogue, they went straight to the house of Simon and Andrew. When they arrived there, he was told straightaway that Simon’s mother-in-law was ill. Jesus went to her and helped her up, and the fever had left her allowing her to begin to wait on them. After they had eaten it seemed like the whole town had come out to meet them and Jesus cured many people including those who were possessed. We hear that Jesus, long before dawn, got up and left the house to find a lonely place to pray. When the disciples caught up with him, they said that ‘everyone is looking for you’. Jesus, not wanting to stay in one place for too long said “let us go elsewhere, to the neighbouring towns, so that I can preach there too.”. Jesus is literally a man on a mission, in fact he is the Son of Man on a mission. He has a job to do, and he wants to get on with it.
There are so many examples set for us within this short Gospel reading. The first is that when we leave our church building, we must take Jesus with us. Our Sunday obligation is only partially fulfilled by being at Mass; if we listen to the words at Mass, we must take what we have heard out into the world so that more people can be saved. This is part of our Baptismal duties. The next example for us is to try and find some quiet time or space when we want to pray; Jesus did this so often in the Gospels, and it is in these quiet times when we can listen for the Word of God. The next example is that all the people were looking for Jesus;
How do we look for Jesus in 2024?
Do we actively look for Jesus or are we hoping to stumble across him by chance?
The last example is that we are not to keep what we learn to ourselves. After preaching in that Synagogue in Capernaum and healing the sick, Jesus sought out other places to take the Good News; telling us that the Good News is meant to be shared, we have not to keep it for ourselves.
The reading from St Paul in the second reading today, should be the top of our list of ‘go to’ readings for when we are feeling a little bit downhearted or overwhelmed on our mission for Jesus. As someone who preaches, I think this extract from the 1st letter to the Corinthians, sets a good example for me. I am not to boast about preaching the Gospel, after all, I didn’t choose to do it, I have been called to do it. I have got to put effort in; I can’t do this in a half-hearted way because preaching is not only a privilege, but it is a responsibility that I have been given, for which I will be held to account on my judgement day. It is also telling me that I need to be all things to all men to try and win them over to Christ.
For me this is similar to what Pope Francis said about priests [even though I’m clearly not a priest] encouraging them to be like shepherds who ‘smell of the sheep’. Pope Francis said that preachers should not be going into areas with some theoretical idea of what the field they are working in is, as preachers we need to get to know our environment by getting out and about within our community1. This is what I try to do; I live and work in our community, I am a married man, I have children and grandchildren, all living within this Pastoral Area. St Paul also rejoices in his work; this is something else I need to remember in the times when I lack energy and enthusiasm.
In the first reading we hear Job, sounding extremely fed up, he has suffered greatly and is resigned to never experiencing joy again. In all of his troubles he never blames God. If we read the book of Job, we will see that this part is in response to one of his friends who has come to console him in his misery. Instead of consoling, he, and his other friends seem to pile on the agony more by insisting that Job must have done something to upset God and has brought his misfortune upon himself through his own actions. Job knows he is innocent and in this exchange he is letting his friends know that he is accepting of his lot; he doesn’t like it, but he is still accepting of it. How we can learn from Job? Throughout all of the exchanges he displays tremendous faith. His trust in God never waivers.
That trust in God is also evident in our Gospel when we hear of all of the people who sought out Jesus to be healed.
When we pray for friends who are sick, where do we set our expectations?
Do we pray with genuine hope?
Or are we resigned to whatever the medical opinion has stated?
When I looked back at what I had written for this weekend three years ago, I came across an observation from St Bede on how St Peter’s mother-in-law responded when Jesus healed her. He said, “The health which is conferred at the command of the Lord returns at once entire, accompanied with such strength that she is able to minister to those of whose help she had before stood in need.” 2
When we experience the healing power of Jesus or any other assistance of Jesus, are we ready to respond immediately to serve Jesus?
I’d like to encourage us this week to actively seek out Jesus in the same way as the people in this week’s Scriptures did. Put our trust in Jesus, take inspiration from Job who maintained his faith through the most trying of circumstances, share the joy of Paul in carrying out our mission for Jesus and respond like Peter’s mother-in-law by looking for ways to serve Jesus as a thank you for prayers answered. In that way we will be taking the Word of God out into our community and surely that can only be good for all of us.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church
Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
CCC 547-550: healing as a sign of messianic times
CCC 1502-1505: Christ the Healer
CCC 875, 1122: the urgency of preaching
Please keep in your prayers this week
- Those who are sick, those recovering from surgery, those who are dying, the recently deceased and those who mourn.
- All those struggling to feed their families at this time.
- Those working to help others who are struggling with the cost-of-living crisis.
- Those discerning a vocation and those considering coming into the Catholic Church.
- The innocent people caught up in wars and conflicts around the world, but especially those in Palestine, Israel, Ukraine, Russia, Syria and Iraq.
- Persecuted Christians everywhere, especially the two priests kidnapped in the Plateau state in Nigeria.
- For Ho Yi Ann, Leona, Brian, Nikodem, Charles, Favour, & Hunter due to be Baptised at St Bede’s on Sunday.
2 Bible Alive – January 2021, (Alive Publishing, Stoke-on-Trent, 2021)53.