Saturday, 4 February 2012

The healing hand

GospelMark 1:29-39 
On leaving the synagogue, Jesus went with James and John straight to the house of Simon and Andrew. Now Simon’s mother-in-law had gone to bed with fever, and they told him about her straightaway. He went to her, took her by the hand and helped her up. And the fever left her and she began to wait on them.
  That evening, after sunset, they brought to him all who were sick and those who were possessed by devils. The whole town came crowding round the door, and he cured many who were suffering from diseases of one kind or another; he also cast out many devils, but he would not allow them to speak, because they knew who he was.
  In the morning, long before dawn, he got up and left the house, and went off to a lonely place and prayed there. Simon and his companions set out in search of him, and when they found him they said, ‘Everybody is looking for you.’ He answered, ‘Let us go elsewhere, to the neighbouring country towns, so that I can preach there too, because that is why I came.’ And he went all through Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out devils.

 Another reading that often feels as though it is putting the women in their place;  I have always had difficulty with the idea that Jesus would heal someone simply so that he could have his supper made for him.
The translation from the Greek shows an inadequacy - deliberate (?) or otherwise. The word used refers to a  ‘woman who ministers to Jesus' - it seems that this woman becomes the first of his disciples. 

Never worry about numbers.  Help one person at a time, and always start with the person nearest you.  ~Mother Teresa

 They left the synagogue full of questions and wonderings. It was getting late in the day so Simon Peter invited them all to his house to share the evening meal. As they drew closer to the house he commented,’ I’ll apologise in advance for my mother-in-law, her cooking is fit for David himself but she has a face that would sour milk.’ Whilst the rest laughed, a puzzled look came over Jesus’ face. 

In the shadow of Simon Peter’s front porch Esther’s face tightened into grimace. The house had been quiet all day, everything tidy and in its place. A simple supper bubbling on the fire, a chance for an early night and here was Simon, big lumbering Simon and some new acquaintances he will have picked up from the synagogue, the market place or the dock.’ New friends, Esther’ he’ll say with a wink. ‘ I’ve told them about your cooking – they’ve come to see for themselves’ and she’d be expected to stretch the meal, empty the store cupboards and spend the night, sitting in the kitchen, wincing at their loud voices and rumbling guffaws.  Oh, how she hated being a woman.

At the threshold the other men leaned down to take off their sandals and shake the sand from their cloaks whilst Simon Peter went into the house. ‘Esther – we have guests come to sample your cooking!’
 ‘What if there’s not enough? Supper was for you and Andrew.’
‘Now Esther, Moses tells us it is our duty to be hospitable ...’
‘Don’t tell me my duty, Simon’ Esther muttered under her breath as she moved to the kitchen – With a nod at the retreating figure, Simon Peter mouthed ‘sour milk’. 

The food was excellent and the friends relaxed sharing stories of the sea, memories of boyhood and hopes for the future. After a time they barely notice the silent, sullen figure drifting in and out with bowls and cups. 

Except for Jesus –for him there was no quiet, no peace in Esther. A catalogue of unfairness and complaints replayed themselves in her head. Demons of resentment and regret perched on her shoulders, claws tightening into her muscles; raising a fever of disquiet; whispering a litany of grudges into her ear. And buried deep beneath, the child Esther playing house with her dolls; the young woman beginning married life full of dreams, the matron widowed, having to move to a strange town; dependent on charity, a servant in all but name, a nobody.

Simon Peter called out to her ‘Another jug of wine.’ With a deep sigh Esther picked up the empty jug and walked out to the store. As she moved baskets of vegetables out of the way, a voice behind her made her start; ‘Let me help you mother.'
‘Thank you sir, but I can manage,' Esther replied warily, 'you should go back to sit with my son-in-law. You are a guest in his house.’
‘But you are struggling’, Jesus said to her, ‘and my mother would never forgive me if I didn't help.’
‘Then you are kind and your mother should be proud. Does she live in the town?’
‘No, but I hope she will join me soon; perhaps when she comes, you could be friends – she’d be a stranger here.’
‘I know what that’s like, Sir, I’d be glad to help her.’

Almost to himself, Jesus spoke again ‘I have relied on her wise words so much. Women have a lot to teach us men about faith, about sacrifice, about love. Young men like these; they need to know about such things.  If you have the time, mother, I would be grateful if you would come and sit and share your wisdom with us.’

He took her hand, looked honestly into her eyes and smiled with invitation; the demons withdrew their claws from her shoulders and the blackness lifted from her mind. 

‘You take the wine into the house, sir, and I will follow you.’

 Dare to reach out your hand into the darkness, to pull another hand into the light.  ~Norman B. Rice



claire bangasser said...

It is fascinating, Word, to read your midrash of this story. Once again, the Word speaks to us in such different ways. Thank you for this.
Thank you also for the final quote, which reminds me so much of what you do :-)

Word in the Hand said...

Thank you Claire - a task we all take on in some way or other - bringing people into the light. :) +

Martha at Authentica said...

Beautifully written! I felt her "consternation"! and her relief with Him! Sometimes we need a reminder...blessings!

Mari said...

It could be difficult at times, especially when we are starting out in the faith, to reach into the darkness, but it is well worth to bring out someone to the light in the name of Jesus.

Great post:)

Word in the Hand said...

Thank you all for your comments - we all find ourselves in both places I guess - in the darkness and with the grace and opportunity to bring others into the light. m+x