Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time Year B

Mark 1: 29 – 39

Lord, you are divine energy and living irresistible might;

Since of the two of us it is you who are infinitely the stronger,

it is you who must set me ablaze and transmute me in fire that we may be welded together and made one.

To-day’s text has much to teach us about how we approach Scripture.


Take time to read the text several times.  As you become more familiar with its content you will begin to recognise the overall theme.


The text as a whole is set within the context of prayer.  It is framed by ‘synagogue’, the place of community prayer.  In the middle Jesus goes off alone to ‘a lonely place and prayed there.’

29On leaving the synagogue,

35 … went off to a lonely place and prayed there.

39 … preaching in their synagogues

This is the second time we find Jesus alone with his God in personal prayer and reflection.  He alone, hears the voice from the heavens saying, ‘You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.’ (v11)  We also find Jesus at prayer in 6: 46


RESPOND (Prayer)

Having become aware of the importance of prayer (both personal and with others) in Jesus’ life let us take time to respond to this first learning from the Word of God.  An ideal way is to incorporate the words of Scripture into our own response to what God has given us.

* * * * * * * * * *


Let us return to the text once more reading it slowly and attentively.

  1. After this reading we will be aware that it easily divides into parts.
  2. Each part has its own tone or theme and once we recognise this our understanding of the text will be enhanced.
  3. Often there is far too much in a text to be handled all at the same time.

Here is my response to (1.) and (2.) above.

The whole text could be titled, “Kingdom of God in Action”.

I have chosen to break up the text according to time.

TIME                                                  THEME

v29 – 31          Saturday morning                                            Urgency


v32 – 34          Saturday evening                                             Healing


v35 – 39          Sunday  morning                                             Prayer and service.

Lesson.  Read the text until you are drawn to one part to pray.

We will concentrate on the first part:   v29 – 31.

This is a story about healing.  Mark likes to arrange his stories in three, the middle incident being the most important.  This grouping consists of: the cure of the demoniac; the healing of Simon’s mother-in-law; cleansing of the leper.

READ this part once more.

29On leaving the synagogue, Jesus went with James and John straight to the house of Simon and Andrew.  30Now Simon’s mother-in-law had gone to bed with fever, and they told him about her straight-away.  31He went to her, took her by the hand and helped her up. (raised her up)  And the fever left her and she began to wait on (minister to) them.


We are immediately struck by the urgency and speed with which things happen.  How does this speak to you about your role in the spreading of the kingdom?


Respond to God about what needs urgent attention in your part of his Kingdom.

* * * * * * *

In the original text the word translated as ‘helped her up’ is closer to ‘raised her up”.  This is the same word used for the raising of Jairus’ daughter (5: 41); the raising of the tormented boy (9:27); and Jesus’ resurrection (16: 6).  This nameless woman is the symbol of those who are raised to a new life.

Jesus takes the ‘dead’ woman by the hand and raises her up to physical health and a new spiritual status.  She ‘ministers’ to them.  This means much more than doing the cooking; she is in fact the first person to act as Jesus acted – she takes up his mission as her own. Jesus will repeatedly say, “I came to serve, not to be served.”

“This woman is healed, and the fruit of the healing is that she places herself at God’s disposal to be a minister of love.

We all have love to offer.  We all have something to give to the service of others.  How often we, like Simon’s mother-in-law, can be so overwhelmed by or pain that we are tempted to give up and isolate ourselves from those who need our love.  We, too, need Jesus’ healing touch, that we might share his ministry of service. (Fallon)

Reflect on and pray using the words of the following statement from St Paul:

These are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit;

And there are varieties of service …

To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. (1 Cor 12: 4-7)

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