“A Day in the life …”
The Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B
Last week’s gospel and the gospel for Sunday 8 February are two halves of a whole: a Sabbath day in the life of Jesus of Nazareth which begins in the synagogue, moves to a domestic setting and ends with a restless, sleepless night prompting a search for a place to be alone in prayer. When the disciples find Jesus again they find a man resolute and clear about the mission assigned to him. Verses 29 – 39 of this first chapter of Mark’s Good News can be very easily looked at in three sections or movements and there are many different ‘ways in’ that could be used. Here’s just one of them.
In the first section we meet Jesus immediately after synagogue where he has astonished and amazed people with his power and authority. It is a lovely contrast that he now goes to a family context: an ordinary domestic scene in the house of Simon and Andrew – perhaps hoping for the equivalent of our Sunday brunch or lunch. Whatever, it is certainly a family context and we can imagine the consternation when it’s discovered that the mother-in law is ill! Jesus’ treatment of her is told with a gentle tenderness by Mark and normal service is quickly resumed.
The next section is a natural extension of a family scene, in which, renewed and refreshed, the doors of hospitality are opened wide to the neighbours, the locals, ‘the whole town’.
Healthy, loving family relationships naturally prompt an open-hearted and compassionate generosity that needs to be shared. Once again we see Jesus in demand: his reputation spreading rapidly.
But the night time brings a restless urge to be alone and in touch, through prayer, with the essential mission of preaching the Good News beyond the boundaries of local expectations. It ends with Jesus and his companions moving on to ‘elsewhere’.
Sunday 8 February is at the start of National Marriage Week and perhaps it would be a good opportunity to explore the importance of marriage and family life from the perspective of today’s gospel. The holiness of everyday, loving marital and family relationships is one which our bishops are eager to promote and excellent resources for doing this are available through the Home is a Holy Place web site: homeisaholyplace.org.uk
In a DVD produced to accompany the resource pack which is available to all parishes throughout England & Wales, one of the sections suggests that home is a holy place because God’s presence graces all creation and shows families making it better for each other in countless different ways: from sticking on a plaster when someone falls and grazes a leg to staying up all night because a child or elderly parent has a fever. This is precisely the image we’re given by Mark in the first section of today’s gospel: a home in which the health of every member matters and in which Jesus’ natural action when faced with illness was ‘he took her by the hand and helped her up’. Let’s encourage one another to give thanks for healthy, committed loving relationships that ground us in our sense of identity and belonging and provide the foundations from which we can set out on the road of our own mission in life – whatever that may be. Let’s also remember all who struggle with such commitment, all who have been damaged by broken relationships and all who work with them to promote healing and wholeness. In whatever way we can, lets’ take time to celebrate marriage and family life this week.