After demons flee helplessly at Jesus’ command in last week’s gospel reading, he walks the short distance from the synagogue in Capernaum to the home of Simon Peter’s mother-in-law, in this week’s gospel, and heals her of a serious and most likely life-threatening illness. Soon thereafter, he cures many people in the village.
Although the New Testament records numerous healings—by one account, at least 37—the gospel passage today poignantly reveals the tenderness with which the sick and suffering are attended to by Jesus. In the case of Simon Peter’s mother-in-law, he “grasped her hand, and helped her up,” a detail that reveals his kindheartedness. In the case of the people who were cured, the Greek word used in the passage (therapeuō) suggests more than a physical remedy. The implication is that Jesus was therapeutic, spending time ministering on a personal level to each malade. Not interested merely in removing the source of the suffering, he compassionately cares for every person individually.
Also inspiring is that it was the disciples of Christ and those drawn to him who brought the sick for him to heal. Simon and Andrew with James and John told Jesus about Simon’s mother-in-law, and the gospel passage says that “they brought to him all who were ill or possessed by demons” (Mark 1:32). In another instance, four men hacked through a roof and lowered a paralytic man on a stretcher to see Jesus (Mark 2:1-12). Later the people “scurried about the surrounding country and began to bring in the sick on mats” (Mark 6:55). In another passage, Jesus opened the ears of a deaf man brought to him by the people (Mark 7:32). Likewise, when he arrived at Bethsaida, “they brought to him a blind man and begged him to touch him” (Mark 8:23). Over and over again, it was the compassion of those seeking Jesus who made the effort to bring the sick to him for healing.
Next week, the Church celebrates World Day of the Sick. People everywhere take time to pray on this day for those who are ill and for those who work to alleviate their suffering. In our own parish, I have witnessed the healing power of Christ in the kindness of our members, from parishioners scheduled to visit the sick every week to the simple act of assisting an elderly parishioner down the aisle to receive communion.
So far in our five-week message series, It’s Better In Here, we have claimed that the church, as opposed to the world, is the best place to discover beauty, goodness, and truth, as well as a direct connection to the transcendent God. But it’s also better in here because healing from life’s wounds can be found in this place. If you are willing to entrust yourself to others and open up about your own struggles, you will discover the restorative power of Christ in the loving and caring hands of the People of God, who will carry you to Jesus.
Father Roger Gustafson