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Reflect with me on the readings for February 8

Previously I have provided a brief introduction to the Sunday readings, with context and background (example). I am experimentally trying something new here: You can add your insights, reflections, sermon suggestions, hymn suggestions – anything positive and useful (even layout and web organisational ideas) – in the comments box. I will choose to publish from what is sent here. Do not send anonymous comments. This is in the nature of community lectio divina. If you know anywhere else on the internet where the Sunday readings are being discussed, please send that URL as a resource. I think we will look about two weeks ahead. Hence we begin with

5th Sunday in Ordinary Time – 5th Sunday after Epiphany – 3rd Sunday before Lent

Text of the readings

Isaiah 40:21-31

“Second Isaiah” Chapters 40-55 addresses those living in exile in Babylon towards the end of the Babylonian exile (597-539 BCE). “Deutero-Isaiah” builds on the eighth century prophet Isaiah’s message of holiness, with words of consolation. Whilst some Judean exiles would have thought their God had been defeated by Babylonia’s gods, the argument from 40:12 highlights the LORD is the only true God, leading to the conclusion in today’s text.
(Roman Catholics use Job 7:1-4, 6-7)

Psalm 147:1-11, 20c

1 Corinthians 9:16-23

The Macedonians were in fact supporting Paul as he wrote this (2 Corinthians 11:7-9), so his claim that the gospel is free is primarily to make a point. In this early Mediterranean world people understood there to be a limited total amount of goods. So if I give you something – then I have less. Furthermore, my giving to you would demand that you give something to me. This text cuts across this cultural expectation.

Mark 1:29-39

Simon’s mother-in-law would be expected to be with her husband, or if she is a widow, with her sons. This story is suggesting that within her culture she is suffering far more than a physical illness. Jesus, as so often in his healing stories, is not merely healing her physically, the story indicates he restores her to her meaningful place within the community.

St Peter's HouseThe floor-plan of the first century house of St Peter in Capernaum (illustrated from The Holy Land: An Oxford Archaeological Guide (Oxford Archaeological Guides)

“The city’s basalt houses are grouped around two large courtyards, one to the north and the other to the south. One large room in particular, near the east side and joining both courtyards, was especially large (sides about 7.5 meters long) and roughly square. An open space on the eastern side contained a brick oven. A threshold which allowed crossing between the two courtyards remains well-preserved to this day.” Wikipedia (link off this site) In such a complex lived Jonah, his sons Andrew and Simon (Peter), Simon’s wife, possible children, and today’s mother-inlaw. The patrilocal practice of marriage meant that the bride moved in to the home prepared by the groom in or adjacent to that of his father.

Reconstruction and excavation

The image (left) shows a reconstruction of this house as it may have appeared in Jesus’ day, and the excavations. This is drawn from this Bible Encyclopaedia.

Richard Bauckham Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony argues (following Cuthbert Turner’s 1925 suggestion) that the plural-to-singular narrative device seen here (“they…they…they…he…) characteristic in Mark (and turned to singulars in Matthew and Luke’s parallels!) indicate Peter’s telling of this story behind Mark’s account. The awkward Markan phrasing could be a reworking of “We left the synagogue and came into our house with our fellow-disciples James and John. My mother-in-law was in bed with fever, and he is told about her” (page 159 – quoting Turner).

Don’t forget: each week I also publish a reflection on the collect/opening prayer.

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18 thoughts on “Reflect with me on the readings for February 8”

  1. I use the “spaghetti method” to do the readings, throw it on the wall and see what “sticks”!

    What sticks for me is the line out of Mark, “Everyone is searching for you.”

    Well, everyone is searching for me too! Sometimes I am searching for me! It makes me think, “What is it about me that God is looking for? What is it that I am looking for in myself? What is that part of me that brings the most to others?” God wants us to discover the best parts of ourselves, the healing parts, the discerning parts, the wise parts. That takes the discipline to LISTEN to what God has to say. It’s not like God stands there and goes, “Oh, you’re getting warmer…warmer…nope, nope, colder.” God wants US to search within ourselves and come to Him with what we discover.

  2. It is interesting that have stumbled upon this, for I am next preaching on 8 February, and I only found this out late last week, so I am still very early in my preparation.

    I have not yet consulted any commentaries, for I always read the readings (in several different translations, sometimes more) when preparing a sermon, then pray and reflect on them for some time, and I only consult commentaries after I have reached some conclusions of my own.

    So far, the theme that sticks out to me is Jesus revealing that He is the Christ, through both word and on action, in Mark 1:29-39.

    At that time, there were many independent preachers, of whom Jesus and John the Baptiser were but two. However Jesus did not just preach. He demonstrated his true identity by healing the sick and by what the text describes as casting out demons.

    This showed he was not just another wandering preacher, and the message for us is that we too need to walk the walk, not just talk the talk.

    I must reiterate that I have been only contemplating these passages for a couple of days, so I will almost certainly have more ideas about Mark 1:29-39.

    I will be looking at commentaries sooner rather than later, so it will be interesting to compare notes.

  3. The passage from Corinthians always confuses me. I think I understand what Paul is saying: that he meets people where he finds them, but it seems as though he says that he is pretends to be something he isn’t to gain people’s confidence. Being “all things to all people” just isn’t very straightforward. Integrity seems to require that you stand up for your convictions, that you be yourself and not pretend to agree with or be like others so they will like you. If a politician is found to have been for gun control in one forum and against it in another, for example, he or she is thought to dissemble. Amn idea: People who work in customer service are taught to act as if the “customer is always right.” Could that be equivalent? I’m sure these rambling thoughts will seem unsophisticated, but when I stumbled across this page I thought I’d just throw in my two cents worth. Thanks!

  4. Mark is such as interesting Gospel. In verse 34,”He drove out many demons but would not let the demons speak because they knew who He was.” As if this is just such an ordinary thing to cast out demons. And they KNEW who he was. I started wondering if many looking good Christians who may not so much knew who He was make of such a reading.

    Do we really believe this. Or is it something written in the era before they knew better and so take it tongue and cheek. If we believe what is written here, well we better get on our knees.My God!! You can cast of demons who know you are the Son of God and silence them when the learned men around you just don’t “get” You.

  5. This looks like a good resource–thank you!You asked about other discussion sites, and I have “tuned in” to bodyii for their forum on all the week’s readings. Sometimes folks get off subject, but there are some good posts. web is http:www.desperatepreacher.com/bodyii.htm If I have spelled anything wrong, googling bodyii will get you there. Blessings and thanks.

  6. May I respond to Kitty?

    Kitty, it has always been my understanding that Paul is certainly not saying “When in Rome”… at least in the fullest sense of the phrase. What I believe he is trying to say is that, in order to spread the gospel he finds a way to relate to the people he is speaking to.

    He did this on Mars Hill as a great example. It is understandably one of his most commendable attributes. Following in the same method as Christ, he utilizes familiar things, settings, customs and so on, to open up the audience to hear the Good News. Again, the example of the “unknown God”. He surveyed the people, and had a good angle to come at them with.

    All of us should take this to heart. If we are called by the name Christian, then we live under Christ’s edict to “Go and make disciples”. What better way to share faith with others than by getting to know them and relating to them. This I believe is what the Apostle Paul meant. Fr. Bosco… correct me if I’m wrong! Thank you for allowing me to comment.

    May Christ lift each of you up and bless you to be a blessing and bring glory to His name.


  7. Also, loved the illustration of Peter’s house. That kind of stuff is great. Juxtaposed with any other photos of replica structures from that time and area, are helpful to draw in a person to the time of the narrative.



  8. Concerning Paul and being ‘all things to all people’, I think this is a case where Scripture must be its own primary interpreter. Paul has, throughout his preaching ministry (undoubtedly) and his previous writings (definately) laid out the bounds of Christian freedom to those he is ministering to. Within those bounds, he reaches out to each individual in the way that is the most meaningful to them; in ways that will impact their lives because, in truth, he is reflecting to them the love of Jesus Christ who has created us and knows our many variances and unique attributes. Being ‘all things to all people’ is (to me) a simple yet powerful reflection on how God is a part of every fibre of our being (even if we are not conscious of that fact) and how we, who are aware of that reality are called to touch others in his stead.

    This will involve various means (perhaps what various popes call the ‘New Evangelization’) and targeted verbiage to reach into specific communities or situations that, as yet, have not responded to the Gospel. At times, it will mean silence – for as Francis of Assisi so wisely tells us, “Preach the Gospel always. Use words when necessary.”


  9. I, too, like to let the lessons bump around in my head and mull about in my heart….then, read, study, inwardly digest…and hope a sermon is the result! What has stayed in my head and heart is the relationship between rest and work. Jesus works to heal the people, then rests. Mama in law is healed and immediately, (thanks to Mark’s author) goes to work. The Isaiah text reminds us where we receive our renewal. Not sure how this might translate into a sermon, but I live with hope! 🙂

  10. Thanks for the plan – it is a shame that a modern church was built over these ruins which we visited last year. I wonder what happened to Peter’s wife? I am currently reading “John” by Niall Williams and it certainly makes you realise the cost of being an apostle.
    I wonder why Jesus admonishes people not to tell anyone. Could it be a concern that the people would make him “king” and his time was not yet come?

  11. Greetings

    Thanks everyone for the high quality and atmosphere of the comments thus far. This venture has had an even better launch than I could have hoped for.

    A couple of comments from me sparked off by the last one from John Woodhouse. I too have visited here, and there is some disappointment – but, looking on the bright side, the ruins are being preserved for the future.

    As to Peter’s (Cephas’) wife. 1 Corinthians 9:5 has her travelling with Peter (she is still not named). Paul was writing that letter about 25 years after Mark’s story (though before Mark wrote up the story – if you follow my meaning). That Corinthian text is not read in the RCL lectionary, but precedes our epistle today by only 11 verses. If a community wanted to make a point of this, the Corinthian text could be expanded, or that context put into a pew-sheet, or an introduction to the reading, or highlighted in the sermon.

    As you know, I struggle with some of the technology involved, but I understand you can subscribe to the “Comments Feed” RSS (As well as the “Entries Feed” RSS at the bottom of this page. The comments, I think, are at
    Please let me know if I am misleading people by this information into thinking they can keep track of these positive comments.

    Thanks again. I pray for you. Please pray for me and all who visit this site.


    webmaster of http://www.liturgy.co.nz

  12. I’ve been giving some thought to the idea that Jesus demonstrates power over both physical and spiritual illness through healing people of physical illness (fever) and spiritual illness (demonic possession).

    I realize there is much more there in the Gospel, but I am considering a sermon that highlights Jesus’ power to heal us of our physical and spiritual illnesses.

  13. Sara Lee Macdonald

    I loved these lessons! I’m preaching my first sermon on February 8,2009! Too many themes to focus on! I chose the Gospel of Mark. I was struck by the fact that Jesus and His disciples hit the ground running and took time to eat, pray, and rest when they needed to. I think this Gospel lesson shows us evangelism in motion! May God Bless all those who are preaching this Sunday!


  14. I am attracted to the idea of Jesus getting up early, going out, going away to a deserted place. Most of us it seems tend to avoid the deserted places of life whether they be geographical, emotional or spiritual. So I wonder if Jesus goes to the deserted place not only for himself but to call the others into the deserted places of their life – to be alone with the Alone. They think Jesus has left them and now they must find him but in reality he is calling them into a deeper place, the place of “interiority.”

  15. I ended up sticking with my original theme of word and action, emphasising that Jesus acted as well as spoke, i.e. he preached AND healed, and that his set Him apart from the other preachers of His time.

    However, I substituted the Epistle reading for James 2:14-26 (faith without works is dead), and emphasised how we need to reveal Christ in word and action.

    If anybody is interested, he/she may watch the result here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qz52rnuDXZI

    Text and audio are available here: http://www.theword.tk

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