Little words, big message – Wednesday, 22nd week in ordinary time – Lk 4:38-44
Often, a little word as small as ‘all’ may be lost to us in a narrative; ironically that is perhaps the most important word in a narrative or pericope. The Gospels were not written to give us a biography of Jesus but rather a post resurrection faith narrative. The primary purpose of the Gospel was not just to cover a couple of ‘where did Jesus go’ and ‘what did Jesus do’ but a communication of faith to a community of believers.
We are studying the Gospel of Luke and clearly Luke’s audience is a Gentile one. Keep in mind that Luke is a companion of Paul on his missionary journeys and there was no greater champion for the Gentile mission than St Paul. And so plays out this little word “all”, for Luke wants to show that Jesus had come for all and “all those who were sick came to Him” and He laid His hands on “each of them.” The Gospel of Luke is inclusive, no one is left out.
However within this greater “all” of the Gospel of Luke, a certain preferential option on the part of Jesus is out on display. This is seen in particular for women, the marginalised and the poor. Jesus, having left the synagogue now arrives at Simon’s house. Curiously you will notice that in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus has first visited Simon’s house, who having experienced this encounter and the subsequent one of the great catch will then be drawn into Jesus net of disciples. For Luke, it is the “being” with Jesus that draws one closer to discipleship.
The miracle performed by Jesus in Simon’s home over his mother in law may seem a bit trivial to a modern mind. Today, a paracetamol can easily cure even a high fever but paracetamols were a long way coming at the time of Jesus. Not only was every illness linked to a ‘sinful condition’ in a person if not to some sort of ‘demonic possession’ but a fever at the time of Jesus was a deadly affair, often leading to death. It is to make the power and position of Jesus clear, that Luke will use the words “He stood over her” and “rebuked the fever”. The healing is instantaneous so much so that Simon’s mother in law got up and began to serve “them”.
Which brings us to our second ‘little’ word in today’s Gospel, another word that could easily be omitted by the reader desiring to ‘read the story’ of the Gospel. For most of us, a favour done is a favour returned and returned only to the one who did it for us. Not for Simon’s mother in law! Here is a woman, the first recorded miracle done for a woman in Luke’s Gospel, who will not let the memory of such kindness fade away quickly. She gets up and serves “them”, all of them, not some of them and most certainly not ONLY Jesus!
Simon’s mother in law is a wonderful example for those who have received much from the Lord. She acknowledges that she was saved to serve and her serving was not merely limited to a couple of nice cooked meals for the Gospel tells us that by the time the “sun was setting, all those who were sick with various kinds of diseases were brought to Jesus” at Simon’s house. One can only assume that she most joyfully welcomed them too and churned out many ‘happy meals’ ( Mc Donald’s came later)
The Lord having worked through the day and perhaps well in to the night, now departs at dawn to a deserted place; this was his ‘me time’ with His Father. Finding Him missing, the crowds went in search of Him and finding Him they could not prevail on Him to stay for Jesus has a clear mission “to proclaim the Good News of the kingdom of God to other cities”. Like his good friend Paul, who first began preaching to the Jews, Luke will for the second time in chapter four, place Jesus in a synagogue where he ‘begins’ his teaching and preaching. But like the presentation of Paul in the Acts of the Apostles, Luke does not limit the mission of Jesus to the Jews, for He has come for “all” and that was His purpose.
Fr Warner D’Souza
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