WelCom February 2021
Gospel, Mark 1:29-39
29 On leaving the synagogue Jesus entered the house of Simon and Andrew with James and John.
30 Simon’s mother-in-law lay sick with a fever. They immediately told him about her. 31 He approached, grasped her hand, and helped her up. Then the fever left her and she waited on them.
32 When it was evening, after sunset, they brought to him all who were ill or possessed by demons. 33 The whole town was gathered at the door. 34 He cured many who were sick with various diseases, and he drove out many demons, not permitting them to speak because they knew him.
35 Rising very early before dawn, he left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed. 36 Simon and those who were with him pursued him, 37 and on finding him said, ‘Everyone is looking for you.’
38 He told them, ‘Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also. For this purpose have I come.’ 39 So he went into their synagogues, preaching and driving out demons throughout the whole of Galilee.
A reflection on Mark 1:29-39
Compassion and Salvation
Today’s gospel continues the eventful day in Capernaum, early on in Jesus’ mission. This story begins with Jesus leaving the synagogue on the Sabbath with James and John before going to the house of Simon and Andrew. Mark’s gospels are loaded with action. Before leaving the synagogue, Jesus healed a demoniac [possessed] with a word. At the home of Simon and Andrew close to sunset, Jesus finds Simon’s mother-in-law in bed with a fever. A witness tells us that Jesus goes to her, takes her hand, helps her up, allowing her to wait on the table after healing her with his touch. At sunset, the Sabbath was practically over, and walking was allowed. This permitted crowds of people to come looking for Jesus and many arrived, with their blind, sick, lame and possessed for Jesus to heal.
Early next morning, Jesus rose, left the house and went out to a lonely place to pray. He needed to talk with his Father. We do not know of the conversation between Jesus and his Father but there are times when we are perplexed over difficult decisions and need time away alone with Jesus. Jesus, who at the beginning of his mission in Galilee said, ‘This is the time of fulfilment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel’. (Mk 1:14). Healing was an activity that drew the crowd. Healing and feeding always drew attention, but Jesus had a deeper message, a bigger picture, the message of salvation. However, he had to die on the cross before his followers realised who he was and before they could understand his real purpose.
We need to understand that part of Christ’s message to us is to introduce fellow Christians to him. A scribe asked Jesus which was the first commandment? Jesus replied, ‘The first is this: “Hear O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this: You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these.’ (Mt 12:29-31). This directly addresses our spiritual wellbeing.
“What is our role as laity? Our duty is to introduce and share the knowledge of our Saviour with people around us?”
Jesus left Simon’s house early in the morning to consider his options. His compassion was to address the immediate ailments of people around him who he loved. But his purpose was the salvation of their souls. He knew unless he could take the rap for them, their souls would be lost anyway. But to do this, he needed to walk the difficult journey to the cross. There was no escaping that. That journey was already underway.
Simon and his companions who represent us, understood the short-term view of compassion rather than Christ’s bigger picture of salvation. Why does our church appear to take the short-term view today of maintaining the status quo rather than spreading the gospel? For Jesus, the spread of the gospel and the saving of souls was the important issue. On this Sabbath, Jesus healed by word, then by touch, after which he needed his disciples to evangelise.
What is our role as laity? Our duty is to introduce and share the knowledge of our Saviour with people around us? May we play a part in enabling souls to benefit from Christ’s sacrifice on the cross and reap their eternal reward. Would that not be the ultimate compassion?
Tom Gibson is a retired Taranaki dairy farmer and a parishioner at Immaculate Conception, Stratford.