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Gospel for Sunday, February 04: Mark 1:29-39

V Sunday B

29 And having left the synagogue, they went straight to the house of Simon and Andrew, in the company of James and John. 30 Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and immediately they told him about her. 31 He drew near and lifted her up, taking her by the hand; the fever left her and she went out to serve them. 32 When evening came, after the setting of the sun, they brought to him all the sick and the possessed. 33 The whole city was gathered before the gate. 34 He healed many who were afflicted with various diseases and cast out many demons; but he did not allow the demons to speak, because they knew him.

35 In the morning he got up while it was still dark and, having left his house, withdrew to a deserted place and there he prayed. 36 But Simon and those who were with him set out on his trail 37 and, finding him, said to him, “Everyone is looking for you!” 38 He said to them, “Let us go elsewhere through the neighboring villages, that I may preach there also; for this is why I have come!” 39 And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons.”

Mk 1:29-39

Dear Sisters and Brothers of the Misericordie, I am Carlo Miglietta, doctor, biblical scholar, layman, husband, father and grandfather ( Also today I share with you a short meditation thought on the Gospel, with special reference to the theme of mercy.

Jesus heals Peter’s mother-in-law and many others (1:29-34)

(cf. Mt 8:14-17; Lk 4:38-41)

Jesus the exorcist, Jesus the healer. Jesus reaching out to the poor.

When Jesus heals Peter’s mother-in-law, there is a threefold miracle because:

1. Jesus makes himself close to a woman: in Judaism woman had very little social relevance.

2. He drives the fever out of her, that is, a manifestation of evil. What does Jesus say to this mother-in-law? “Eghèiro!”, “Arise!”: this is the same verb as Jesus’ resurrection. Jesus resurrects us: attached by baptism to his death we participate in his resurrection, we rise (Rom 6:3-11).

3. Jesus performs a revolutionary action for his time: he is the only rabbi known to have accepted the service of women, he is the only rabbi in antiquity who was accompanied by a female retinue: and here he accepts being served by Peter’s mother-in-law.

This woman, in Simon’s house, is healed (“the fever left her”) and she set out to serve them.

Peter’s house is the Church: the community recognizes itself in Peter’s mother-in-law who, healed by Jesus, immediately places herself at his service. To the extent that we accept Jesus as Savior, to the same extent we serve him.

One stands with Jesus to go and serve. And “he served them”: a verb in the imperfect tense, thus indicating a continuous action. There is always a twofold movement: freed from the spirit of evil,

being with Jesus, inwardly reconciled, inwardly reunited from our schizophrenias, loosed from our anxieties, our anxieties, we must become servants. The Gospel perspective is one of service: Jesus himself will serve at the table and wash the disciples’ feet, as the master in the parable “serves the servants” in Lk 12:37.

“They brought all the sick to him, but he did not allow the demons to speak because they knew him” (v. 32): the miracle for Jesus is never a propagandistic gesture. Jesus never performs miracles to prove that he is the Son of God. Jesus performs miracles because he shares the suffering of the sick person, and he wants to remove the evil from him. Jesus, whenever he heals someone, recommends not to tell anyone: this is the so-called “messianic secret.” For he feared that they would frame him in a triumphalist and glorious vision: his way was instead the way of the Cross; he was the Messiah who had to die. For Jesus, therefore, the miracle is not propaganda, not a means to be seen, but loving participation in the suffering.

Jesus withdraws in prayer (1:35-39)

These verses are loaded with messages for us.

After a tiring day Jesus finds time to pray: he reflects and, in listening to the Father, seeks to understand his historical mission and his plan for its implementation.

1. Always pray: Paul confirms this (Eph 6:18; 1 Thess 5:17), on Jesus’ word (Lk 21:36). Jesus says to pray always, even if you are fatigued. Jesus himself prayed, and he was exhausted because throughout the day he preached and healed the sick, but he always found time to pray.

2. Jesus got up when it was dark and went into the desert to pray. Here is the whole theology of prayer: it is in silence that we hear the Word of God. I can’t pray with the television on: I need to find that moment, those minutes in my day, in the week, when I lock myself in my room, and remain in silence listening to God speak. If Jesus, who was the Son of God, used these expedients, how much more should we who are poor sinners.

3. Primacy of prayer over action. It is not we who save the world: it is God who has saved it once and for all in Jesus Christ. So praying is really setting ourselves apart, acknowledging God’s Lordship, recognizing that it is God who works and it is God who converts.

To pray is to draw light and strength for praxis. How often do we bring instead the very excuse of verse 37. The disciples go to Jesus and say to him, “Everyone is looking for you, there are many sick people

to be healed, there are many people to be converted”: but Jesus prayed. How many times do we, in the Apostolate or Volunteer work, say we cannot pray because we have too much to do. How often do mothers of families say, “How can I pray? I have children to look after, to take and pick up from school.” Fathers, “How can I pray? I work all day, I’m busy.” But prayer is a fundamental element of Christian life.

This is how Cardinal Angelo Comastri recounts his meeting with Mother Teresa of Calcutta: “She looked at me with two clear, penetrating eyes. Then she asked me, “How many hours do you pray every day?” I was surprised by such a question and tried to defend myself by saying, “Mother, from you I expected a call to charity, an invitation to love the poor more. Why do you ask me how many hours I pray?” Mother Teresa took my hands and squeezed them between her own as if to convey to me what was in her heart; then she confided to me, “My son, without God we are too poor to be able to help the poor! Remember: I am only a poor woman who prays. By praying, God puts His Love in my heart and so I can love the poor. By praying!””

4. Finally, true prayer is always for mission. Prayer is not to save one’s soul: prayer is to go to the brothers, to cast out demons, prayer is to then throw ourselves back into the social to create concrete signs of the Kingdom of God.

Happy Mercy to all!

Anyone who would like to read a more complete exegesis of the text, or some insights, please ask me at


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