Still your mind and body and become more aware and open to what we are about to reflect on
Before we enter into this third session of our Lent retreat, take some time now to become still. To still your mind and body and become more aware and open to what we are about to reflect on today. Start by noticing the noises that you can hear around you, or perhaps it is quiet outside. So what about the noise or noises inside you, in your mind or in your heart. Notice them gently, what they stir, hold them gently, and then let them go.
Then, when you have stilled yourself, at least for a while, turn to God, and say ‘Here I am; speak, Lord - your servant is listening’.
Can you visualize this healing scene?
Listen now to the next story, It follows immediately that of our previous session, the healing of the centurion’s child [or slave]; and at all costs we must avoid heavy jokes about mothers-in-law, that great gift of God to almost every marriage. Can you visualize this healing scene?
When Jesus entered Peter’s house, he saw his mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever; he touched her hand, and the fever left her, and she got up and began to serve him.
Here we are presented with just Jesus, all on his own
- How unexpected is this instance of Jesus' healing mercy? Why do you think Matthew mentions ‘mother-in-law’?
- We notice that Jesus ‘went into the house of Peter’, and that this is a Greek name, appropriate enough for one who according to John’s gospel comes from the nearby pagan city of Bethsaida. What do you feel as you see Jesus going into Peter’s house?
- When Mark told this story, it took place immediately after they left the synagogue on the Sabbath. Here in Matthew it happens immediately after a meeting with a Gentile Roman soldier, which may serve to emphasise the unexpectedness of Jesus’ healing mercy. What do you make of these healing acts so close together?
- In Mark’s version, it was the ‘house of Peter and Andrew, with James and John’. So all Jesus’ inner cabinet was present. Here we are presented with just Jesus, all on his own. Then we hear the description of the patient’s plight. Like the centurion’s servant, she is ‘flung’ or ‘thrown’, which gives us a sense of the malign and powerful force that has afflicted the mother-in-law, underscoring the awfulness that has hit her.
Talk to God
As you encounter God’s healing mercy this Lent, can you respond to this call to serve others?
- We also learn that she is a ‘woman’, and therefore marginalised in the culture. She was, moreover, ‘burning’ or ‘on fire’ with a fever. In a world with no antibiotics that means that she is in imminent danger of death. Can you look steadily at the woman; what feelings does her plight stir in you?
- We watch entranced as Jesus reacts: ‘he touched her hand’. Here we should draw a sharp breath, for Jesus is risking a double impurity. Not only is she a woman, and therefore liable to make him impure, but she may be a corpse, or about to become one, which has the same effect. Watch Jesus’ reaction; what does it say to you? You might want to reflect on the courage of God’s healing mercy. And what that means to you.
- And what is the result? First, ‘She was raised up’: this is a word that means ‘Resurrection’ in the New Testament. And the passive ‘was raised up’, rather than ‘he raised her’, is a ‘divine passive’: it means that God is at work. Second, ‘she started to serve them’. Now you are not to start thinking, ‘There you go - the males are exploiting the women again’; rather, this is what happens when we encounter God’s healing mercy: we serve each other. As you encounter God’s healing mercy this Lent, can you respond to this call to serve others? Talk to the Lord about what this reflection has prompted in your heart.