Reflections on Mark 1:29-39 Part 3

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"He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up" (Mark 1:31)


Jesus is in the company of Peter, James and John. These three often accompany him in the most significant moments as Jesus prepares them for their special mission. We see them together with Jesus at the transfiguration and also in Gethsemani. They had already witnessed a miracle in the synagogue and now they trust him to heal Peter’s mother-in-law. They waste no time in informing Jesus of her illness, thereby implicitly showing their faith, but no specific request is made. The fever was a life-threatening illness. She lay ill, isolated from the social life of the home and society.

It is easy to overlook the ordinariness of this scene. Peter was the first leader of the early church and the first Pope of the Church. It is probably not out of place to see here an early affirmation of the primacy of Peter among the first disciples. He was a fisherman with family commitments and here we see him in his everyday family life. The first disciples were people similar to us in every way, with their work, their family commitments and their own problems. What brought them together and shaped them into a closely knit community which went beyond this ordinariness was being with Jesus - it was his presence that transformed their existence just as it can transform ours as we meditate and share the Word of God at home and in our home cell groups. This will not come about, however, if our relationship is only sporadic, reduced to a once-a-week encounter in church. We need to be constantly aware of the presence of the risen Lord and remain in his company on our journey through life
Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:4)
 When this is the case we may well be in a state of pain and suffering but the healing power of Jesus will also be present and awareness of this healing presence in moments of suffering will allow us to experience joy despite our circumstances. When we trust in him he will also take our hand and lift us up above that which oppresses us. So let us hold fast to his presence in order to experience that healing which is so sorely needed.  Although he uses the third person Brother Lawrence wrote of himself:
We must know before we can love. In order to know God, we must often think of Him; and when we come to love Him, we shall then also think of Him often, for our heart will be with our treasure.1

his prayer was nothing else but a sense of the presence of God, his soul being at that time insensible to everything but Divine love: and that when the appointed times of prayer were past, he found no difference, because he still continued with God, praising and blessing Him with all his might, so that he passed his life in continual joy.  2
And in the Fourth Conversation we read:
As Bro. Lawrence had found such an advantage in walking in the presence of God, it was natural for him to recommend it earnestly to others; but his example was a stronger inducement than any arguments he could propose. His very countenance was edifying; such a sweet and calm devotion appearing in it, as could not but affect the beholders. And it was observed, that in the greatest hurry of business in the kitchen, he still preserved his recollection and heavenly-mindedness. He was never hasty nor loitering, but did each thing in its season, with an even uninterrupted composure and tranquility of spirit. "The time of business," said he, "does not with me differ from the time of prayer; and in the noise and clutter of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling for different things, I possess God in as great tranquility as if I were upon my knees at the Blessed Sacrament." 3
In this episode of the Gospel we have a striking image of humanity brought low by the power of sin and evil in the world. Sin and evil alienate us from God and healthy society; we are alive yet helpless, unable to enjoy life, unable to be ourselves and with the scars of the past that haunt us. Alive yet helpless, just like so many who feel stifled within, with their just ambitions and aspirations crushed and unable to attain that joy and happiness towards which we all tend. The crowds in this episode are about to discover that the presence of Jesus brings life: ‘I am … the life’ (John 14:16). Have we substituted true life with so many things that bring only a precarious satisfaction that lasts only as long as the situation lasts? This leaves us even more isolated and with an arid inner wilderness creating an even deeper sense of emptiness and helplessness than before. Let the words of Jesus ring our loud and clear ‘I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete’ (John 15:11). This is the joy that no person or circumstances can ever take away


1 Brother Lawrence 1(Nicholas Herman, c. 1605-1691), The Practice of the Presence of God, Grand Rapids, MI: Christian Classics Ethereal Library, Ninth Letter p. 26, visited 1 Jan. 2016.
2 Ibid. p. 11, 12.
3 Ibid. p. 13.

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