Let me first give you an outline of St. Mark’s gospel as far as our reading today: John the Baptist was proclaiming his message of repentance when Jesus came to him and was immersed in the Jordan, whereupon the Father from heaven declared Jesus to be His beloved Son, and the Holy Spirit descended anew upon Him, immediately leading Him into the desert to overcome Satan in a direct, personal, confrontation, before beginning to draw followers to Himself. When John the Baptist had been imprisoned, Jesus returned to Galilee to begin His proclamation of the Good News, the Gospel of salvation; and there, seeing Peter and Andrew, James and John, fishing on the Sea of Galilee, He called them to Himself as disciples. Then, as you heard in last Sunday’s Gospel reading, together:
They came to Capernaum, and on the Sabbath Jesus entered the synagogue and
The effect of Jesus’ preaching was most striking: they were amazed at the authority of His teaching, and also, that of His very Person when -- before their eyes -- He drove out of a man possessed an unclean spirit shrieking:
Let us alone! What have we to do with You, Jesus of Nazareth? Did You come to destroy us? I know who You are -- the Holy One of God!
Now we have today’s reading which tells us that:
On leaving the synagogue, Jesus entered the house of Simon and Andrew with James and John.
Jesus had entered the synagogue as one entering His own realm: there He had spoken with the authority of a prophet; and His Person as the Holy One of God had been proclaimed by a man possessed of an unclean spirit. But, are those other words of the spirit:
What have we to do with You, Jesus of Nazareth?
perhaps some slight indication of the secret dispositions of some of those hearing Jesus and witnessing such happenings in that synagogue at Capernaum? For He left the synagogue recognized indeed by His hearers as one speaking with prophetic authority, and partially acknowledged by His fearers as the Holy One of God; but, acclaimed He was not, neither as prophet nor as the Holy One of God.
Today we learn that on leaving the synagogue Jesus went straightway to the house of him who was to become Peter; and so, that house, the home of Peter, could aptly signify the future Church Jesus would found on the rock of Peter’s faith. Jesus therefore, having just left the synagogue accepted neither in the divinity of His Person nor in the authority of His teaching because of His humanity:
Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary, and the brother of James and Joseph and Simon? (Mark 6:3)
thereupon symbolically entered the Church where His humanity, His enfleshed divinity, both manifested His power and brought Him immediate acclaim and whole-hearted acceptance:
Simon’s mother-law lay sick with a fever, and He grasped her hand and helped her up. Then the fever left her and she waited on them. And when it was evening the whole town brought to Him all who were ill or possessed and He cured many who were sick and drove out many demons.
Mark is telling us of a perfectly understandable event in which Jesus initially did a service for His disciple Peter. But the wisdom of God had wide horizons in view and so, in this small incident at the beginning of Jesus’ career we find encapsulated His whole life’s work and mission; for the authority and power of Jesus’ word and the majesty of His Person would burst the limitations of the Law, the Temple, and the synagogue, and lead inevitably to the Universal Church.
Let us now look more closely at what transpired. Mark tells us that:
Simon's mother-in-law lay sick with a fever. They immediately told Him about her. He approached, grasped her hand, and helped her up. Then the fever left her and she waited on them.
“He grasped her hand and helped her up”. That is how we would expect it to have happened and that is how it is translated for modern readers. But that is not literally how Mark expresses it; for his order of events is slightly different:
Having approached, He raised her taking (her) by the hand.
Mark puts “raised her” before mentioning that He took her by the hand. Let me try to show you why the Spirit guided him in that choice.
The Greek word Mark uses for the raising, lifting, up of the sick woman is the same verb that he uses for the resurrection of Jesus (Mark 16:6):
The angel said to them, "Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, Who was crucified. He is risen! He is not here.
Likewise St. Luke, when he tells us of Peter’s first address to the Jewish people (Acts 3:15), uses that same Greek word again:
You killed the Prince of life, Whom God raised from the dead, of which we are witnesses.
There is also a liturgical hymn from the early Church, only a few years after Jesus’ resurrection, which tells us (Ephesians 5:14):
All things are made manifest by the light. Therefore He says: "Awake, you who sleep, arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light."
There, notice, we have the same Greek word for “rise” this time being used for a newly baptised person rising from sin and being illumined by Christ.
Now, perhaps, we are in a position to begin to understand why Jesus had to leave the synagogue and go directly to Peter’s house, the Church, to “raise up” Peter’s mother-in-law: for “raising up” can only be rightly understood in the Church, because it speaks of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, which, through faith, empowers the waters of baptism to wash away sin and bestow new life for the salvation of mankind. Jesus did not simply lift her up by His miraculous power; no, He ‘raised’ her in anticipation in His own resurrection and helped steady her by the right hand of His divine, supporting and sustaining, Flesh.
People of God, here we catch a trace of the eternal wisdom of God; for here, the Holy Spirit inspired Mark to use words whose fullness of meaning and significance he, Mark, could only partially have glimpsed. And how wonderful it is for us, in and through the Church by the guidance of the same Holy Spirit, to be able to appreciate more and more of the wonder of God’s wisdom and the fullness and beauty of His truth! The Church can never come to the end, so to speak, of God’s majesty and goodness: there will always be infinitely more enshrined beyond and above our present capabilities, which -- hidden and at times unspeakable -- makes up the eternal glory of divinity uniting Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in a transcendent oneness of mutual love, understanding, and appreciation. We should have the utmost reverence for the Scriptures and the deepest gratitude for Mother Church: for it is only from them, in and through her, that each of us can come to a saving knowledge and transforming realization of the wonder of our calling to know, love, and serve God here on earth so as to be able to delight in Him for all eternity.
St. Mark then tells us something which greatly surprised the disciples:
Rising (a different Greek word this time) very early before dawn, (Jesus) went off to a deserted place where He prayed. Simon and those who were with Him pursued Him and on finding Him said, “Everyone is looking for You” …
Jesus had left His disciples behind in order to go and pray to His Father alone. Later on, after rising from the dead, He did the same again: He disappeared from their view as He ascended to His Father in heaven. And now we are all -- as with Simon and his companions of old -- ever on the look-out for His return in glory.
The letter to the Hebrews (7:24-25) informs us that in heaven:
Jesus, because He remains forever, has a priesthood that does not pass away. Therefore He is always able to save those who approach God through Him, since He lives forever to make intercession for them.
Jesus, in heaven, intercedes, prays -- just as He did on leaving Simon’s house in today’s Gospel reading -- alone before the Father, but now at His right hand of power, for all those whom the Spirit raises to new life through their faith in Jesus.
And so, God’s wisdom and beauty has foreshadowed for us in broad outline the full saving work of Jesus in the events of this one day at the very beginning of His ministry as recorded for us by St. Mark. What treasures the Scriptures hold beneath the apparent simplicity of their inspired words!
Finally, let us take note of what we are told concerning Simon’s mother-in-law:
The fever left her and she waited on them.
Is that a prophetic picture of all those truly raised by Christ? Do they -- and should we -- likewise serve Our Lord and our brethren in Mother Church? I am sure you know well enough the answer to that question; may therefore the Holy Spirit of Jesus in Mother Church guide and sustain you in your personal works of service for God’s glory and the salvation of souls:
While I (and Mine) are in the world, I am the Light of the world. (John 9:5)