11 January. Wednesday of Week 1
1st Reading: Hebrews 2:14-18
Jesus shared our flesh and blood and so is able to help us in our trials
Since, therefore, the children share flesh and blood, he himself likewise shared the same things, so that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by the fear of death. For it is clear that he did not come to help angels, but the descendants of Abraham. Therefore he had to become like his brothers and sisters in every respect, so that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make a sacrifice of atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested.
Gospel: Mark 1:29-39
Jesus cures Peter’s mother-in-law, prays, and preaches the good news
As soon as they left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once. He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.
That evening, at sundown, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. And the whole city was gathered around the door. 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.
In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. And Simon and his companions hunted for him. When they found him, they said to him, “Everyone is searching for you.” 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.” And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.
Like us in everything
Hebrews says that Jesus shared fully in our humanity–even in the experience of loss and death. He explains that to be effective as our merciful high priest Jesus had to become like his brothers and sisters in every way. He was himself tested through life as we are, but remained “without sin” (4:15). Taking this at face value, one could say that there is no temptation, however ugly or strong, that he did not also feel, and it places our own temptations–however embarrassing or persistent–right there within our relationship to our blessed Lord.
The merciful side of our Lord is also seen when Jesus visits the home of Peter’s mother-in-law. How good of him to care about her fever, for he is never present as a mere a spectator to people in trouble. Mark says vividly: Jesus grasped her hand and lifted her up, “and the fever left her.” Then, mirroring the blessing she has received, the mother-in-law looks after the needs of her guests. When the neighbours learn of Jesus’ presence they throng around looking for a blessing. All is hubbub as sick people are laid at the doorstep, and mentally deranged people are brought to be freed of the demons tormenting them. Growing weary of all this stress, early the next morning Jesus went off to a lonely place to think and to pray. And still he is told, “Everyone is looking for you.” This draws him back into ministry mode and he sets off to the neighbouring villages to proclaim the gospel. His life has a clear purpose: “That is what I have come to do.” This mission he would continue right up to his death–and after, through his Spirit, in the life of the church.
Healing and Praying
There are two quite different activities of Jesus in today’s gospel. The first is the activity of healing. Jesus heals Simon Peter’s mother-in-law in the house of Simon and Andrew by taking her by the hand and lifting her up, and then goes on to heal many sick people who were brought to the door of the house. This healing activity of Jesus is very public and is greatly appreciated by everyone; the whole town came crowding around the door, according to Mark. The second activity of Jesus is much more private. In the morning, long before dawn, he goes out by himself to a lonely place to pray.
Whereas his healing the sick was much appreciated by all, this second activity of going off by himself to pray is not appreciated by others. Even those closest to him didn’t think much of it. Peter, the leading disciple, rebukes Jesus, “Everybody is looking for you,” as much as to say, “Why are you wasting time out here on your own.” Yet, Jesus knew that the source of his life-giving work was his relationship with God, which finds important expression in his prayer. The activity of prayer was as important to him as his work of healing. Prayer is as important for us as it was for Jesus, indeed, even more important. We need the Lord if we are to live as he desires us to live and if we are to share in some way in the Lord’s work. In prayer we acknowledge and give expression to our dependence on the Lord; we open ourselves to the Lord’s life-giving presence so as to be channels of that presence to others.