Read Job 7:1-4,6-7, Ps. 147:1-6, 1 Corinthians 9:16-19,22-23, Mark 1:29-39

“Simon’s mother-in-law lay sick with a fever, and immediately they told Him of her. And He came and took her by the hand and lifted her, and the fever left her.” (Mark 1:30-31)

Last Sunday, Jesus went into the Synagogue to fulfil his prophetic mandate, which includes preaching good news to the poor, release to the captives, sight to the blind, liberty to the oppressed and the acceptable year of the Lord. There, Jesus taught not as the scribes but as one with authority. There also was a man possessed by demons who tried to challenge Jesus. Without allowing him to speak further, Jesus cast out the demons. The whole assembly is shocked. “What is this? A new teaching! With authority, he commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” (Mark 1:27). Today’s Gospel passage picks up from this point. We are told that immediately they left the Synagogue, Jesus accompanied Peter home. As always, our readings today contain some vital lessons for our meditation.

1. In Moments of Sickness (or Pain), Avoid Blaming the Victim
Today’s first reading comes from the book of Job. It is one of Job’s long speeches in conversation with his friends, who believe that Job’s sickness resulted from his sinfulness. We tend to blame the victim when someone is going through a painful situation, as if the situation is a punishment for the person’s sin. In psychology, this phenomenon is referred to as self-serving bias. When Jesus was told of the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices, he asked them, “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way, they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? No, I tell you, but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did.”(Luke 13:1-3). Suffering and pain can happen to anyone, whether or not they are sinners.

As a result of the self-serving bias, it is especially tough when we suffer from such painful experiences, knowing that we have been living upright lives. Like Job, when we are down, we could become angry in spirit and hopeless. Job felt this when he said: “My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle, and come to their end without hope… my life is a breath; my eye will never again see good.” (Job 7:6-7). This was probably what Peter’s mother-in-law felt while she lay in bed as others went to the synagogue.

Let us strive to be more sympathetic to those who are sick. One of the corporal works of mercy is visiting the sick. Whenever you visit the sick, encourage them - say things that would lift their spirit, smile, crack jokes, make the place lively, and above all, pray with them. Like the case of Job, you do not know if such sickness is a test. When you encounter a sick person, be a Good Samaritan; do not behave like the priest and scribe who passed by the other side. (Cf. Luke 10:26-36)

2. Miracles happen when Jesus is Present in the family.
Another important lesson we learn today is the need to always bring Jesus into our homes and families. God, being a Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is family and respects our human family. Our opening prayer at mass today goes thus: “Keep your family safe, O Lord, with unfailing care... that they may be defended always by your protection.” The good news is that by teaching us to pray the “Our Father”, Jesus already considers us as members of His family, but the bad news is that many Christians do not think of Jesus as a family member.

For many, the moment we leave the church premises and return home, we pull off our Christianity along with our Church attire; we begin to behave like strangers to the faith. We allow the devil to fill our hearts with immoral and evil thoughts, and we never seem to have time anymore to read the Bible or pray. Jesus is constantly knocking at the doors of our homes, hoping we would invite him in; we would at least create time for family prayer (Cf. Revelation. 3:20).

Remember that song: “When Jesus is in the family, happy, happy home…” Jesus’ presence in a home makes all things right. Is there anyone sick in your house? Are you experiencing a family crisis, tired of the headaches of stubborn children, or experiencing marital crisis and infidelity? Then it is time to let Jesus into your house by driving out the devil, by driving out any sinful or evil practices in your homes. Bring Jesus into your bedrooms through prayer, for where two or more are gathered in my name, I am there. (Cf. Matthew 18:20).

3. Every Mass is a Healing Service.
Last Sunday, we saw how Jesus healed the demoniac simply by speaking. There is power in the spoken word of God. Today, Jesus healed Peter’s mother-in-law by touching them. The beauty of attending Holy Mass is that we can hear Jesus speak to us through the mass readings and the sermon. In the liturgy of the Holy Eucharist, we get a chance to touch and be touched by Jesus when we come forward for Holy Communion.

Dear friends, all it takes is faith to believe that the same Jesus who touched Peter’s mother-in-law is right here with us and that no sickness or disease is beyond His Power. You do not need any special display from the priest to receive healing. Only Jesus can heal you, and He is right here. Just believe! Have the faith of the woman who said to herself, “If I only touch his garment, I shall be made well.” (Matthew 9:21)

Avoid running after self-acclaimed healers who attribute God’s glory to themselves. Despite all he did for the Christian faith, we hear St. Paul say in today’s second reading: “If I preach the Gospel, that gives me to ground for boasting...” One of the signs of false prophets is boasting, and closely related to this is the display of wealth. As St. Paul puts it: “What then is my reward? Just this: that in my preaching I may make the gospel free of charge, not making full use of my right in the gospel.” (1 Corinthians 9:18).

4. The Secret of Jesus’ Power is His Active Prayer Life and love for souls
That evening, when Jesus was supposed to be resting, the whole town gathered around the door of Peter’s house. Jesus did not send them away. God is never tired of hearing our prayers. The next day, very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus went to a solitary place to be alone with God and pray. Indeed, the saying is true that a prayer-less Christian is powerless. When we go through the Gospels, we discover that every time Jesus performed great miracles, he created time alone for prayers. This way, He never ran out of fuel in His spiritual tank.

Jesus was not motivated by money, nor was he motivated by the applause of the crowd. Jesus never performed any miracle just for the crowd to see; all his miracles were borne of his genuine concern for the person in question. When Peter awoke, he discovered the whole town was looking for Jesus. “Everybody is looking for you.” Peter said to Jesus, but Jesus replied: “Let us go to other towns that I may preach there also, for this is why I have come.”

If Jesus were motivated by the crowd's applause, he would have remained in that town, but His primary mission was to win souls. Do you desire the gift of healing? It is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit. (Cf. 1 Cor.12:30). Ask, and you shall receive it. Ask for it not for your glorification, not to become popular, but out of a genuine concern for souls. And if you have this gift, pay attention to prayer. Otherwise, you might lose it.

Let us pray: Almighty, ever-living God, draw me nearer to you more and more so that I may truly worship you in the Church, my home, and wherever I go. Through Jesus Christ, Our Lord. Amen.

Be Happy. Live Positive. Have Faith. It is well with you. God bless you. (5th Sunday in Ordinary Time. Bible Study: Job 7:1-4,6-7, Ps. 147:1-6, 1 Corinthians 9:16-19,22-23, Mark 1:29-39).

@Rev. Fr. Evaristus E. Abu