A Day in the Life of... Sunday Readings B 5 (Y-not question the Sunday Readings)
Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time B
February 5, 2012
Reading I: Job 7:1-4, 6-7
Responsorial Psalm: 147:1-2, 3-4, 5-6
Reading II: 1 Corinthians 9:16-19, 22-23
Gospel: Gospel: Mark 1:29-39
These three short scenes hardly need any introduction or commentary. They show Jesus in a homely light (Sc 1), as one who made a tremendous impact on the whole population (Sc 2), and as both a man of prayer and one committed to proclaiming his message widely (Sc 3).
Yet I wonder whether this is all that Mark intended his readers to glean from reading this account of a day in the life of Jesus of Nazareth. Did he simply want to tell of a kindly healer who went in to Peter's mother-in-law and and took her by the hand so that the fever left her and she was saved the embarrassment of not being able to serve lunch to her son-in-law's new friend and his mates. There may be more to it.
When we are told that the gospel is the written version of the oral tradition in which the story of Jesus was passed down through those first three or four decades we may well imagine it as a fairly haphazard collection of anecdotes arranged in some rough order. The fact that Matthew and Luke build on Mark, re-arranging the order in various places, adding some items and omitting others, may reinforce this impression of an amateurish assembling of the story in written form.
However there are some who see Mark's gospel as a carefully constructed narrative, a work of considerable genius, which tells the 'story' of Jesus in a most sophisticated way. In spite of it being written in the everyday language of the people it has been compared to the writings of classical Greece for the strength of its composition, for the way it holds up under close analysis, and for the impact it makes on the reader.
From this perspective these three cameo scenes may be setting out certain key elements of the story to come. Scene One has Jesus go from the public meeting in the synagogue to Simon's home, where he had a meal and stayed the night. This is the first 'lesson' his disciples are exposed to, and we have no reason to say it is irrelevant, much and all as it might seem insignificant when viewed from the great height of a cathedral pulpit. Keeping in touch with family is important in the Way of Jesus.
Scene Two has the whole town crowding around the door 'after sunset'. Again, a simple note that makes us realise that of course they had to wait until the Sabbath was over before they could go out on the streets. But why does such a little thing as 'after sunset' find a place in this very sparse and trim narrative? Is it possible that this report of the first enthusiastic response of the people also contains a symbol? 'When it was evening, after sunset': Could this be a way of underlining that the sun had set on the old order. The Sabbath has ended forever.
'The whole town was gathered at the door', such was the world's desperate hunger to be freed from oppression.
In Scene Three Jesus slips out very early for some quiet time of prayer, before the household is up. This vivid image has been recognised and imitated down through the ages. Then there is another formal statement of purpose:
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.
'For this purpose have I come.' In this short sentence we might hear the Word Incarnate saying that he has 'come down from heaven' for this purpose. Or it might be read as a quite ordinary statement: 'This is why I've come over from Nazareth, left my simple tradesman's life to take on this role of preaching.'
However we would not be wrong if we saw in Mark's text a deliberate pointer to the Mystery: 'I have come for this purpose.' What is this 'purpose'? We are not told exactly, but we are left to think that it must include preaching and driving out demons. I wonder why 'healing the sick' did not get a place in this list? Is it just an oversight? Can anything be 'just an oversight' when we are reading Mark in this way? Or are we meant to ponder on this until it becomes obvious that healing the sick of physical ailments is a metaphor that stands for the healing of the mind and heart, the healing of the spirit.
All this may be pretty convoluted, and it should hardly be necessary to go into such unravelling of the text. But then again, why not? How else can we straighten out our warped minds, conditioned as they are to a lifetime of traditional and superficial interpretations of Jesus? I think we have to be ready to cut deep into words and phrases that have lost their impact through familiarity, in the hope of laying open the mystery they contain?
If you don't feel any of this is helpful, then ignore it. But if you're not content with the way you've always read it, just stay with the text, and with the question: 'What is it really saying to me?'
"A post is a free gift, and it will go where it pleases."'
A Day in the Life of... Sunday Readings B 5
Thank you again Tony.
As you point out preaching the Good News and healing the afflicted were shown as his great commitments.
It struck me that was able to be totally committed to his mission, no matter how much distraction he faced. He lived for the message and for others.
He made time for prayer.
It seems that his great commitment came from prayer; it reinforced his faith the Father and the Father’s will.
The power of prayer has been discussed a lot recently in this forum.
Here is an interesting reflection from a USA priest.
The text can also be read here:
One of my favourite reflections on prayer is by Abraham Herschel
A Day in the Life of... Sunday Readings B 5
Tony, thanks for your reflection, and the way you have grounded it in the everyday.
I've always been intrigued about the sort of prayer Jesus would have engaged in, in this passage from Mark, and in other similar Gospel passages.
Rising very early before dawn, he left
and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed.
Only recently have I realized, that as an observant Jew, Jesus would have followed command in Deuteronomy 6:4 and prayed,
Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one.
And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.
And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be upon thy heart;
and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thy house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest.
The instructions in Deuteronomy about saying these words, seem to be very close to the instructions given about using a mantra for meditation, where one says it over and over until it becomes engraved on the heart and accompanies one everywhere, not just during meditation time. It struck me as rather wonderful that we could use this same prayer that Jesus himself must have used (and which Jews to this day use in their daily prayer).
Just thought you, and others who meditate, might be interested.
A Day in the Life of...just about anyone!
Thank you yet again to Tony, Jerome and Sue for getting us thinking about different aspects of today's Gospel. Tony, I'd especially like to say that not only is this reflection one of your best, IMO, but it's one of the best commentaries I've ever read on a Gospel passage.
One thing which particularly strikes me about this Gospel story - and I think your reflection helped me see it this way, Tony - is that, in a sense, it could be describing a day in the life of just about anyone! I mean, to borrow Tony's very apt phrase, Jesus did not operate from the "great heights of a cathedral pulpit", nor from the great heights of a temple, or a palace, or anything else like that. Jesus very much lived among the ordinary people, and in fact, although he did such extraordinary things, he WAS an ordinary person. Hence, I feel I can say that this could be a description of a day in the life of almost anyone, a day that consists of spending time with friends, sharing a meal with them, helping others as best you can, and finding time for quiet prayer.
This last point is, I'm sure, one that many parents could identify with. I particularly thought of this when I read the bit about Jesus having to get up extremely early and going off on his own to pray - and even then he had people coming after him to let him know he was needed! I am reminded of something a friend once told me, about the time when her five children were teenagers or younger. She said that at that stage of her life, she found it so hard to find quiet, uninterrupted time for prayer and meditation that she decided she would have to wait up till the early hours of the morning. This she did - only to have her teenage children and their friends burst into the house and shatter the silence, having decided to end their evening out by bringing a pizza back to their house! So much for a quiet time of solitude!
So - to borrow from another Gospel - the Word truly became flesh and dwelt among us, and, I think we can add, truly became one of us.
I splash in my poetry puddle
and try to keep God amused. - James Broughton
A Day in the Life of Simon Peter's mother-in-law
How was it for her? Definitely a memorable day, begun when she was "proper poorly," weak with fever and not apparently able to get on with her customary business. She was surely less than delighted when Simon (her son-in-law) and Andrew brought a total stranger into the house, plus James and John.
As it was probably a small house, she couldn't avoid the man and may indeed have felt too wretched to protest when he came to look upon her. The cure was sudden and remarkable. She was her old self again, bustling and hospitable. What a gift she had received!
And what a responsibility - throngs of neighbours turned up at the door, crowded in, made demands. But the stranger was equal to the event, and she surely wondered. . . One thing was clear - he would always be welcome in that house - she wouldn't hear a word against him. She knew now what it was that had attracted her son-in-law (and would take him away from his home and his fishing).
Her mind must have been in a big buzz. She probably didn't sleep that night. She'd have heard him get up and slip out early without waking the others. Would he be back, she wondered? Would he say or do more for them? He had healed her, a woman. Just a woman, and she had won his concern. What a reversal of the usual priorities in her village.
Well, there was little she could do, but she could and would tell people how he had healed her, made her really well again. She felt great. I guess she got up and made bread for that day. And when the boys got up and looked for their friend, she gave them the bread to take with them as they made off along the route they reckoned Jesus had taken.
One thing she knew - he had touched her and healed her.
We don't know her name. She is you, me, Everyone.
Thank you Mary!
Thank you so much Mary for adding yet another dimension to this week's Gospel passage, this time from the point of view of Simon Peter's mother-in-law. I often wonder how individuals in Gospel stories would have reacted to the events described, and you have brilliantly drawn out the possible reactions of one woman who was involved!
Another thing I can't help wondering about is what Peter's wife thought about it all. I wonder why she is not even mentioned? Maybe Peter was already a widower. Why was his mother-in-law living in his house anyway? I thought that in traditional patriarchical societies, older women would live with their sons and daughters-in-law. Maybe she only had a daughter. Once again, is all this just irrelevant detail? Or is there some significance in it?
I splash in my poetry puddle
and try to keep God amused. - James Broughton