Mk 1: 29-39
Directly on leaving the meeting place, Jesus came to Simon and Andrew’s house, accompanied by James and John. Simon’s mother-in-law was sick in bed, burning up with fever. They told Jesus. He went to her, took her hand, and raised her up. No sooner had the fever left than she was up fixing dinner for them.
That evening, after the sun was down, they brought sick and evil-afflicted people to him, the whole city lined up at his door! He cured their sick bodies and tormented spirits. Because the demons knew his true identity, he didn’t let them say a word.
While it was still night, way before dawn, he got up and went out to a secluded spot and prayed. Simon and those with him went looking for him. They found him and said, “Everybody’s looking for you.”
Jesus said, “Let’s go to the rest of the villages so I can preach there also. This is why I’ve come.” He went to their meeting places all through Galilee, preaching and throwing out the demons.
When Jesus heals Simon’s mother-in-law, it seems like an act of backhanded kindness. Here was someone to prepare the dinner and serve the visitors. The true translation shows something more. The word for serve is ‘diakonia’ the same root as for diaconate or deacon. Her healing is an invitation to spiritually serve.
The Lectionary places verses of Job’s grief with this gospel. The uselessness of life. An interpretation may be that Simon’s mother-in-law is suffering from this same grief. Living in Simon’s house suggests that she is a widow, perhaps feeling that she is a burden on the family. Perhaps the fever could be translated as the phrase ‘taken to her bed’ which covered periods of depression and anxiety when such things were not recognised.
For Jesus, used to his mother’s wisdom and company, this healing is necessary. Jesus’ intervention gives Simon’s mother-in-law life and purpose. She is invited to be part of the Good News. The news, that Jesus insists, must be taken to all corners of the earth.