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God is at Work

Dear Parishioners,

The readings this week give people like me a lot to think about as well as some choices to make. Facing a sometimes terrifying health diagnosis, especially one that seems to take two steps back for every one forward, it is easy to become like Job in the first reading. His months of misery have taken their toll. Nights are long; days pass quickly. He’s getting close to despair, rapidly losing hope. I feel for you, Job! When they told me there’s more melanoma on my scalp and we’ll need some more scans to see what’s going on with my bones, I’ve had a few sleepless nights myself!

I don’t want to be sitting there with Job. I want to go directly to the middle of the Gospel today. It tells us how so many in the town were cured simply by showing up after dark at Jesus’ back door. They ask for healing and he complies, nice and straightforward! And what did they do afterward, those who were cured? They probably had a celebratory bacon-and-egg breakfast at the local diner with their friends and family, and then went back to their lives: fishing, woodworking, farming, wine-making, tax collecting.

I envy them. Their scans are clean. They are free to go. No questions asked, no conditions made. How wonderful for them, I think, but how improbable for me. That’s why the person who catches my eye and teaches my soul this week is the mother of Peter’s wife.

When we meet her, she is delirious and dehydrated, in a dangerous state of health, utterly helpless. Jesus comes into the house, takes her by the hand, and lifts her up. Her response is remarkable. According to Mark, she “waited on them.” She “began to serve.” Some call her the first deacon! It sounds to me like her actions were rooted in a thankfulness. Her every days were transformed and became a source of praise, miraculous even. The meal she served that night would be like the dinner Martha and Mary served after their brother Lazarus was raised from the dead. It was like the meal Zacchaeus, the outcast tax collector, served to Jesus in his home after their encounter. It is an acknowledgment of God at work in our lives, in all the things of our lives.

That is challenging lesson the Scripture gives me this week. God is at work: in our healings and in our illness, in our resurrections and in our crosses. Coming to believe that is never a quick study. I doubt that all those who were healed after sunset got that point. I think Job eventually did by the end of his story, but it is Peter’s mother-in-law who gives us a shining example of that today. Something to think and pray about, especially during those sleepless nights!

Father John