Just a Word… Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time…

Just a word… Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time… February 7, 2021

Why in the world would Alexei Navalny return to Russia, having just survived a poisoning that was meant to keep him from his work? Why did Job, after railing at God about his many misfortunes, reaffirm his belief in the Lord? For that matter, why did Jesus continue to preach when he knew that eventually he would be in trouble with the Roman authorities? We might find a clue in Paul’s reading this morning, when he says, “an obligation has been imposed on me, and woe to me if I do not preach it,” it meaning the Gospel.

Our Gospel today tells us that the whole town gathered at the door of Simon Peter’s house to see Jesus, each with something to be healed or solved or changed. According to Mark’s account, none left disappointed. But what exactly did Jesus do for each? Perhaps what he did for Peter’s mother-in-law… he “grasps her hand and helps her up.” The word used to “help her up” is best translated as “raises her up,” the same word Mark uses to de- scribe Jesus’ resurrection… as when he was “raised up” to new life. And what does this mother-in-law do when she is raised up? She proceeds to wait on the household, to serve them. Although it might be tempting to cast shade on the woman’s immediate return to her work, it is helpful to realize that the word used here by Mark for her service is diakoneo, the same word Mark will later use to describe Jesus, as well as the women who ministered to Je- sus and his companions on their missionary journeys. This service is not undertaken as a hardship, but as an act of love. It would remind us of Gerard Manley Hopkins’ poem King-fishers, in which he writes:

Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:

Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;

Selves-goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,

Crying What I do is me: for that I came.”

So, what do Alexei Navalny, Job, Paul and Jesus have in common? Perhaps that is expressed best by Hopkins: What I do is me; for that I came. They each are following their hearts, their understanding that they have a mission. In their bones they know that they were called to work for some purpose, for something greater than themselves, be that the Gospel or for the greater good of their people. And what of our unnamed mother-in-law? She models for us what happens when a person has an encounter with Jesus; she, who was raised up, feels compelled to serve, to raise up others, to heal hearts.

And so it is with us…as we walk through our lives, as we contemplate the ways in which we have been raised up, it is incumbent on us to continue the mission of Jesus… to heal the broken-hearted… to bind up their wounds… to raise them up.

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