Faith, Fellowship and Fun

Mark 1:29-39
Mark 1:29   As soon as they left the synagogue, Jesus entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. 30 Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once. 31 He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.
Mark 1:32   That evening, at sundown, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. 33 And the whole city was gathered around the door. 34 And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.
Mark 1:35   In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. 36 And Simon and his companions hunted for him. 37 When they found him, they said to him, “Everyone is searching for you.” 38 He answered, “Let us go on to the neighbouring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.” 39 And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.
Although short, there are four moments in these eleven verses from Mark 1: (a) a miracle, (b) cures and exorcisms in general, (c) Jesus at prayer and (d) a very brief summary statement at the end.
(a) The miracle story is unusual. Usually, such stories have five steps: the sick person’s need, the encounter with Jesus, the request, the healing moment in word and/or gesture, the evidence of the cure. Our story is missing the request and the word. Verse 31b, which might seem a little hard on the woman just up from her sick bed, is proof that the cure was fully effective. The stripping away of incidental details serves to profile the power of Jesus.
(b) That power is equally at work in this general scene. Illnesses of all kinds were attributed to evil spirits.. Forbidding the demons to speak is a feature of the narrative of Mark (those from the world of the spirit remind the readers of who Jesus really is) and of the theology of Mark (the theme of the Messianic secret). According to the scholarly theory of the Messianic Secret, Jesus’ own historical reticence about his identity was elevated by Mark into a strong feature of his story to help readers at the time of writing to understand how it was that most of Jesus’ contemporaries did not recognise him. The same topic comes up for extensive reflection in Romans 9-11.
(c) The prayer scene is showing an essential characteristic of the life ofJesus. The previous day had sparked enthusiasm for Jesus. The source of his readiness is revealed as prayer.
(d) Finally, Mark has dotted his account with summary and transition passages and this is one example.
Thought for the day
Which of us is not in need of some kind of healing? The healing touch of Jesus reaches out to all in need: the physically ill, the mentally disturbed, the addicts, the bereaved, the lonely, the distraught, the stressed, the sinners. He desires our well-being, that we might be fully alive and experience life in abundance.

We continue reading from the first chapter of St.Mark and its emphasis on Jesus as the one who inaugurates the kingdom of God. Now it is his healing ministry that highlights God’s triumph over the powers of darkness.
As before, Jesus does not permit the demons to speak and here an important theme of the gospel is being alluded to. People have definite expectations of what a Messiah should be, and what Jesus is offering will be different and so he refuses to allow a mistaken notion of his purpose to develop. Rather he commits himself to his task by taking time out to pray alone and then continuing his mission of proclaiming the kingdom.

SEAN GOAN—Let the Reader Understand
The pace of this opening chapter of Mark’s Gospel can leave us breathless. We might notice Mark’s tendency to speak in totalities - “all who are sick” are brought to Jesus, “the whole city” is gathered around the door “everyone” is searching for Jesus. This language converts the momentum of his ministry. There is also a sense of hurry: the time has come.
People power can and does change the world. What urgent issue are you concerned about? Is there an advocacy group you can join, a fundraiser to support, can you contact your local policymaker?
For anyone in a position of leadership or ministry, today’s text has an important message. Jesus withdraws to a ‘deserted place’ to pray. The fast pace of his ministry is only possible because he takes time to be with God in silence, away from the bustle. How do you take time to nourish yourself, to connect with Jesus who feeds us? Listening to God’s Spirit allows us the inner freedom we need to continue our work.


The Gospels have preserved the memory of a habit of Jesus which made a deep impression on the disciples. Jesus would withdraw at night to pray. He needs to be alone with his Father. He doesn’t want to let success go to his head. All he wants is to know the will of the Father; to know the direction the Father wants him to take. Jesus would not let himself be programmed by others. His only thought is the project of his Father.
One of the most positive features of contemporary Christianity is the awakening of the need to foster communion with God through silence and meditation. This is a most urgent need. In general Christians do not know how to be alone with God.
The dilemma today is not that we have too many problems, but that we lack the spiritual strength needed to face them.

JOSÉ A PAGOLA—Following in the Footsteps of Christ
This passage contains four scenes and there is food for thought in each of them.
  1. The first story (vv. 29-31) is one of healing.   You might reflect on times when you were sick in body, mind or spirit and someone was a ‘Jesus person’ to you, someone who ‘took you by the hand and lifted you up’. Remember them with gratitude.    Have there been times also when you did this for others?
  2. The second story (vv. 32-34) adds another dimension.   People are freed from demons.   Have you had the experience of being freed from demons that imprisoned you: fear, anxiety, guilt, low self-esteem, addictions, bitterness, etc.?What was it like for you to get that freedom?   Who were the ‘Jesus people’ who helped to free you?
  3. The third story (vv. 35-39) has a number of different elements we can consider. Jesus goes off to a desert place to pray.   After a hectic day he felt the need for quiet to ground himself once more.   In the busyness of life how do you keep in touch with what is going on inside yourself?   How do you keep in touch with God?    Where do you find your ‘deserted place’?   What difference does it make for you when you do succeed in taking time out?
  4. Jesus shows himself as a person seeking to break new ground.   The disciples want him to continue ministry where he is.  He wants to move on. What has been your experience of breaking new ground, moving beyond your comfort zone, or trying something you had not tried before?   When has this had a life-giving effect for you?

Today’s gospel passage is in three sections:– verses 29 – 31; verses 32-34: verses 35 – 39.
We can take one section at a time, on its own; or we can try to discern a movement flowing through the entire passage – this is the approach I propose. The passage then reveals a new dimension of Jesus’ ministry, the general outlines of which are drawn in these first Sundays of Ordinary time.
On the Third Sunday, Jesus announced the overall goal of his ministry – the kingdom of God. The Fourth Sunday (Mark 1:21-28) showed that his ministry is a ministry of casting out unclean spirits with authority. On this Fifth Sunday, we get the further insight that Jesus will always be restless, he will never “have somewhere where he can lay his head.” He will always be on the lookout for new areas where his gospel needs to be preached.
It happens to all of us, at one time or another, that we find the courage to break new ground, to be reconciled with someone who had hurt our family, to move into some field where our services are needed. This passage celebrates such moments of grace in the life of Jesus and in our lives.
It would be good to spend some time with the expression “because that is why I came.” Like so many phrases in the Bible, it is brief and seemingly simple, but it can transform our consciousness radically. When the Church neglects  the marginalised it is always because it has forgotten the reason “why it came”.
The gospel passage reminds us that we will not take bold new decisions unless we are inwardly free, as Jesus was. It also teaches us the secret of his inner freedom – his regular, deep, personal prayer, the fact that he would “leave the house and go off to a lonely place to pray there” – another haunting little phrase.

MICHEL DE VERTEUIL—Lectio Divina on the Sunday Gospels

In “The Joy of the Gospel” Pope Francis describes a healthy spirituality as something more than “a few religious exercises which can offer a certain comfort. Healthy spirituality also encourages encounter with others, engagement with the world and a passion for evangelization.” (No.78)
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