5th Sunday of Ordinary Time – Year B

On leaving the synagogue, Jesus went with James and John straight to the house of Simon and Andrew. Now Simon’s mother-in-law had gone to bed with fever, and they told him about her straightaway. He went to her, took her by the hand and helped her up. And the fever left her and she began to wait on them.

That evening, after sunset, they brought to him all who were sick and those who were possessed by devils. The whole town came crowding round the door, and he cured many who were suffering from diseases of one kind or another; he also cast out many devils, but he would not allow them to speak, because they knew who he was.

In the morning, long before dawn, he got up and left the house, and went off to a lonely place and prayed there. Simon and his companions set out in search of him, and when they found him they said, ‘Everybody is looking for you.’ He answered, ‘Let us go elsewhere, to the neighbouring country towns, so that I can preach there too, because that is why I came.’ And he went all through Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out devils.

Mk 1:29-39

From the very beginning of his public ministry, Jesus’ reputation as a teacher and healer spread rapidly throughout Judea, so much so that hundreds would gather at the places he visited in order to be cured of their afflictions.

We are well familiar with the stories of Bartimaeus and Lazarus, whom we know by name, but the vast majority of those restored to physical well-being by Jesus remain nameless: the centurion’s servant (Luke 7:1-10); Jarius’ daughter (Mark 5:35-43); and Simon’s mother-in-law. In a sense their “namelessness” reinforces that they were strangers to Jesus. Despite this, Jesus responded to their needs with sensitivity and compassion, even when his actions broke social taboos.

As followers of Jesus, we too are called to respond to the needs of others with compassion. Not just to those we know and love, but equally to strangers. We must come to recognise Christ in the face of others. Christ often comes in the guise of the lonely, the broken and the marginalised, people often rejected rather than embraced. Jesus himself warns against such behaviour in the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats, and he implores us to ‘welcome the stranger’ (Matthew 25:31:46).

Mark’s Gospel highlights that teaching and healing were central to Jesus’ mission and he himself acknowledged “that is why I came”. Although “the whole town came crowding round the door” Jesus responded to their needs, and rather than being exhausted he set out to visit neighbouring towns the next day. Importantly, amid all of this frenetic activity, Jesus took time to pray. He found comfort in solitude, and in being alone with His Father. We too should seek times of solitude with our Creator, especially when we are harried or stressed. Prayer and moments of aloneness with God provide an opportunity for renewal so that we might go out and continue the work for which we came.

Anthony Cleary
Director, Mission and Identity