Going Forth to Serve

Today’s gospel brings forth a passage that has disturbed many, especially in today when we view women’s struggle for full equality as a given.

Many commentators and not a few biblical experts are dismayed at the opening section of Mark 1:29-39:

On leaving the synagogue
Jesus entered the house of Simon and Andrew with James and John.
Simon’s mother-in-law lay sick with a fever.
They immediately told him about her.
He approached, grasped her hand, and helped her up.
Then the fever left her and she waited on them.

Here we go again, they sigh, Simon’s mother-in-law is made well only so that she can get up from her sickbed and take care of the men!

But such analysis misses a very salient and valuable point. The term “waited on them” is not akin to our definition. It is not like being a waitress at a bar or restaurant. No, this is a word that is used of deacons. It is a phrase that denotes ministry. Thus, we see that the first deacon recorded in the bible involving this new “movement” was a woman!

We are placed on notice immediately, that this ministry (that of Jesus) will be like no other.

Looking to the first reading from Job (Job 7: 1-4, 6-7) we see the deep pain and suffering that living is. Albeit, Job’s suffering is caused rather than merely encountered, the point is the same. We cannot ask of the world any “easy ride”. There is no bargain, no amount of pleading or working that will insulate us from the travails of normal life. We cannot make the night end more quickly, or avoid the aging process.

Life, real life is encountered only through faith in God. Paul claims that this sort of living is so wonderful that he cares not at all what he must endure to live it.

To the weak I became weak, to win over the weak.
I have become all things to all, to save at least some.
All this I do for the sake of the gospel,
so that I too may have a share in it.

Paul tells us that sharing in this new life is worth being weak and being a slave to all. It is worth ridicule and hardship. All is worth it to “have a share in it.” And Paul here, I would argue is not talking about his “ultimate salvation”. He is not saying that I endure all this so that I may be taken to heaven as a good soldier when I die. Rather he means, that by doing what he does, he is living heaven right now! This is the point. This is what is driven by faith, and what drives faith. One supports and enhances and furthers the other.

Mark shows us that this life is about healing. It is about driving out the demons that possess us, and curing our sicknesses, physical or otherwise. This is life–to seek out and help those who are in need, to show them the way to life.

Jesus finds what he needs in his retreat to prayer, where he is nourished anew. Yet, when found, he transitions back to the world:

He told them, “Let us go on to the nearby villages
that I may preach there also.
For this purpose have I come.”

It is our purpose to. Not to necessarily preach, as Paul did, though some are called to that. For most of us, living means to be in synch each moment with who we are, and who we are called to be. As Carlo Carretto suggested, we live on the vertical and horizontal at the same time.

(on leaving the desert) And so I found myself back in the world, in the midst of all the confusions, surrounded by my fellow men and women. …Humanity too is an absolute, and you must seek, love, and serve human beings just as you seek, love, and serve God. Jesus let us in no doubt about this inexorable and simultaneous movement into the two dimensions, the horizontal and the vertical.
The closer you come to God as you ascend the slopes of contemplation, the greater grows your craving to love human beings on the level of action. The perfection of men and women on earth consists in the integration, vital and authentic, of or love for God and our love for human beings. ~Carlo Carretto, In Search of the Beyond

It is living authentically.



4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Michael
    Feb 05, 2012 @ 11:48:29

    and amen.


  2. Tim
    Feb 06, 2012 @ 11:12:30

    Sherry, so true and so pure! Internet woes have kept me from getting here sooner and I spent much of yesterday wondering how you handled these passages–there was just so much going on and so many subtleties beneath the surface!

    I so love (and thank you) for the clarification about Simon’s mother. Deacon work–yes! And the call to authenticity is so clear here. I love that Jesus doesn’t get bogged down in other people’s problems. He does what He can, given the time He has, and He moves on. That’s part of the challenge with authentic living, I think. Learning how to become a lifesaver when when can without taking on the superhero mantle. Yikes, if Jesus couldn’t heal everybody of everything, what makes us think we can?

    This is so rich–and I’m scrambling a bit as I’ve just had my service restored and (you know how it goes) I’ve got emails a-go-go to answer and whatnot. I’m going to come back once I clear up the clutter and give this more focused contemplation it obviously deserves.

    Finally, you’re so spot-on here that I wish I’d read this before fumbling around so badly at my place!

    Many blessings, and –as always–thank you,


    • Sherry
      Feb 06, 2012 @ 11:55:16

      Oh dear, hope your computing is back up. I just hate when that happens! Yes, Jesus has a way of setting the record straight doesn’t he? He seems to have said, “I’ve planted the seeds here, and we have so many others to help.” It’s easy to get bogged down I think, and before you know it, your doing so much, that you end up doing very little. Hope you had a nice Sunday in the end. I know that computer troubles can be vexing! Blessings Tim. Sherry


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