Date: Sunday, February 07, 2021
I noticed something in Almond-Alfred, NY when I was stationed there. Houses were not always associated with the present occupant but often with the original owner. It is true too for me when I go back to Bowmansville. I will drive by a house and recall the family that lived there 65 years ago. Locals remember. In our Gospel today, St. Mark, the evangelist, points out a particular house by name. “On leaving the synagogue Jesus entered the house of Simon and Andrew with James and John.” (Mark 1:29) Later, pilgrim travelers to Capernaum found the remains of the ancient synagogue but they wondered where was the site of the house where Jesus healed Simon Peter’s mother-in-law? 28 years ago, Italian excavators discovered a house beneath the ruins of a Byzantine Church. A reasonable assumption is Christians would not likely build a church over the site of an existing house unless the place was already venerated! There is substantial evidence (storage jars and oil lamps) that indeed this house was the home of Simon and Andrew and, after the death and resurrection of Jesus when the disciples returned to Galilee, it became a gathering place for worship – a House Church. Archaeologists have found the inscriptions: “Lord Jesus Christ help thy servant” and “Christ have mercy.”
In this house, Jesus heals Simon Peter’s mother-in-law, Jesus finds Sabbath rest, and after sunset, Jesus heals the sick and those possessed by demons who gather outside the door. Rising early in the morning, Jesus goes off to a deserted place for prayer. When his disciples find him, they move on to another village where Jesus enters the synagogue to preach. Here at the beginning of the Gospel, St. Mark gives us a snapshot -- A Day in the Life of Jesus!
Jesus heals Simon’s mother-in-law by grasping her hand and helping her up. She begins to serve. This memory of Jesus healing and Simon’s mother-in-law serving is so ingrained in the believing community that it becomes the hallmark of the Catholic Church – healing and serving. In-patient medical care that today we consider a hospital can be traced back to the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy nurtured in the Catholic Church. Saint John Paul II, suffering from Parkinson disease, established World Day of the Sick on February 11, the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. It is “a special time of prayer and sharing, of offering one’s suffering for the good of the church and of reminding us to see in our sick brothers and sisters the face of Christ who, by suffering, dying and rising, achieved the salvation of mankind.” On Thursday, mindful of our present circumstance, we can express our gratitude to all who care for the sick and pray for the sick that they/we may experience the comfort of God, the healing touch of Jesus and our solidarity in the church.