On leaving the synagogue,
Jesus entered the house of Simon and Andrew
with James and John.
Simon’s mother-in-law lay sick with a fever.
They immediately told him about her.
He approached, grasped her hand and held her up.
Then the fever left her, and she waited on them.
— The Gospel of Mark
In my preparation this week, I went to a source that I consult almost without fail each week: the Working Preacher website at Luther Seminary. Invariably, there is a gift waiting there for me from one of the many amazing bible scholars and preaching professors of that wonderful local institution. This week, it comes from Karoline Lewis, Professor and the Marbury E. Anderson Chair of Biblical Preaching:
“The healing of Simon’s mother-in-law is a classic healing story. It’s all fine and good. It’s what Jesus does. It’s what he’s good at. But there is something sort of disturbing about this story that doesn’t seem to have anything to do with healing. ‘Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.’
“What? She’s healed so that she can serve? Whom? Did she want to? That’s all she could do? Didn’t she have any other aspirations? If you are brought back from the edge, from almost death, or from the brink of what you thought your life had to be, shouldn’t there be something else for you, some sort of new vocation, new career, new identity? And she served them? As if that was what she was expected to do. As if that was the only thing she thought she could do. As if that was the only thing she could do?
“But, what if the healing of Simon’s mother-in-law was bringing her back to be the mother she always was and that she always wanted to be? And in being brought back to who she was, she became a disciple, called to minister, to serve, like the angels did for Jesus in the wilderness and like the Son of Man, who did not come to be served but to serve?”
This first of many healing stories in the Gospel of Mark invites us to ask ourselves the questions Dr. Lewis poses. When we invite in the fullness of a relationship with Jesus the Healer, how will we be changed? How will we express the fullness of who we “always wanted to be?” I look forward to exploring this, and more, when we come together as community this Sunday.
With gratitude for who you are in the world,
An Ecumenical Catholic Community