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This Sunday's Programme

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5th Sunday Year B

Sunday 4th February 2024

The Gospel Paraphrased

There are many fine translations of the Gospels readily available. This paraphrase is not meant to replace them. Rather the intention here is to offer a more contemporary rendering so that you can imaginatively translate the Gospel in your own situation.

This Sunday's Gospel Paraphrased

Mk 1:29-39

Coming out of the synagogue Jesus straightway went to Simon and Andrew’s home with James and John. Simon’s mother-in-law was laid low with a fever and straightway they told him this. Coming to her, he lifted her up, taking her hand. Straightway the fever left her. Then she served them.

At evening, when the sun had set, they brought to him all the sick and possessed and the entire town gathered round the door. He healed many of the sick who had all kinds of diseases and he cast our many demons, but he silenced them because they knew him.

Early next day, rising long before dawn, he went out and found a solitary place and there he prayed. Simon and his companions tracked him down, and when they found him, told him that everyone was looking for him. ‘Let’s go elsewhere, to the near-by towns, so I can preach there. It is for this that I have come.’ And he went preaching in their synagogues throughout the whole of Galilee and he also cast out demons.

Psalm

The Psalms are the ancient prayers of the Jewish people, here paraphrased into contemporary language.

This Sunday's Psalm

Ps 146: 1-6
Praise God!
It is good to sing to our God
Pleasant, joy-giving to make melody for God.

God builds up our city,
gathers together all the outcasts,
heals the broken-hearted,
consoles those in grief.
God knows all the stars,
has named each of them.

Vast of power and vigour is our God,
infinite in understanding,
yet stoops to bolster the humble,
while casting the wicked into the earth.

Prayers

Words cannot contain our desire for God but they help direct our minds and hearts towards God's love and express our needs.

This Sunday's Prayer

Loving God, we all desire the healing that Jesus came to bring. Open our minds, hearts, lives to his healing touch and as we receive from him the gift of your Spirit may we give his life and love to those around us in need. We ask this in his name confident that your will hear us.

The Commentaries Summarised

As a Church we are in a web of wisdom that comes to us both from tradition and contemporary writers. This section offers a summary of some commentaries on the Gospel. Also below is a list of the books and articles that have been consulted in compiling this Sunday's "Pray As You Can" and which could be used for further reading.

This Sunday's Commentary

This Sunday’s Gospel concludes the paradigmatic ‘day’ of Jesus ministry. He heals one individual – Simon’s mother-in-law – then at dusk, after the Sabbath has ended, the place is flooded with people bringing their sick and possessed. “Immediately”, “straightaway”, “all” – these words are repeatedly used in these few verses and underline the vibrancy of Jesus’ ministry and how readily he drew people in their need.

The response of Simon’s mother-in-law is an example for all followers. The verb for her service is a significant one for Mark: it is used of the angels who served Jesus (1:13), the women who stood beneath his cross (15: 41) and of the service of the Son of Man (10:45) both in his living and dying. This story is not just a homely little miracle but offers a paradigm of the proper response to the Good News of Jesus.

After this extraordinary day, Jesus makes a concerted effort to get away and pray. Having burst on the religious scene in such a manner and having had such an overwhelming response from the people to his power, he goes away to commune with his Father. When Peter and his companions ‘hunt’ him down – yes that element of desperation is in the text- he responds with calm decisiveness. He knows why he has come and he will not allow the short term demands of people to deflect him from it.

Exposition

Christian conversion is promoted by conversation. This section is a response to and a development on the knowledge gained from the commentary section.

This Sunday's Exposition

Those, who can go to sleep with the blare of the TV to be woken by the bombardment of the radio may not know what they are missing. The song Music of the Night from The Phantom of the Opera captures the beauty and serenity that night can offer for the soaring of the spirit. Night. This is the time that Jesus twice chooses for prayer in Mark’s Gospel. Night. This is the time when our self can emerge from the demands of the day to meet our hopes in the Spirit of God.

In the night, we can be open more easily to our inner self; allowing our own personal hopes, needs and fears to resonate. We have time to think our own thoughts, feel our own feelings and share them with God. In the night, we can take the space to review our day and thank God for all its blessings and for what we have learnt. In the morning before dawn we can go over our plans with God, asking for the Spirit to live the day graciously.

Is this fanciful and remote? Not really – look at Jesus, when the disciples tracked him down and deluged him with the demands of the desperate. Having communed with his Father before the dawn, he was able to calmly and decisively enter into the demands of the coming day.

Reflection

Reflection is an essential element of our growth in Christ. As we reflect over what we have learnt and ponder it in our hearts, we come to recognise the presence of God in our lives.

This Sunday's Reflection

In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus is told that everyone is looking for him. Why? Because he had healed their sick and cast out demons from their midst. He was the extraordinary wonderworker and the people wanted more. They wanted Jesus because of what he could do for them. As we do. But is that all?

Catherine of Siena said that we have only truly received a gift from God when we have given it away. The proper response to the gift of Jesus was shown by Peter’s mother-in-law. Having been served by Jesus in her healing, she served him and his disciples. She didn’t take a rest after her fever, or go out and tell the neighbours, or make a fuss about what had happened, or even about Jesus’ extraordinary powers. No, she took up the ordinary tasks that needed to be done. She had guests – she served them. How must Jesus have loved her! This was a woman who really understood his message, who had gotten the heart of his Gospel. It is so easy to expect faith to be revealed in exceptional circumstances, when it can be shown in simple actions, even as simple as serving a meal.

Visual Meditation

Looking at art works or movies is a great way to open ourselves to the meaning of the Gospels. Seeing can bypass our preconceived notions, giving us new vistas of enlightenment. With painting or sculpture one needs to sit quietly and absorb the dynamics of the piece. The drama of movies more easily engages us and offers a way to conversation about the Gospel with other members of your family.

This Sunday's Visual Meditation

– Fifteenth Century wall painting of Jesus healing Peter’s mother-in-law  from the Church of St Mammas, Louvaras, Cyprus

Jesus heals the mother-in-law of Peter   by Rembrandt van Rijn.

– This watercolour by James Tissot shows the tenderness of Jesus as he heals.

– William Brassey Hole’s painting gives a sense of life in Galilean towns and the desperation of the people as does this watercolour by James Tissot

– Christ healing the mother of Peter’s wife by John Bridges.

– James Tissot aimed at showing a realistic view of the life of Christ.  This painting of Jesus at prayer in a deserted place was probably closer to reality than images of Jesus in the remote desert.

Mulling Meditation

The purpose of mulling meditations is to offer a few ideas that one can mull about while doing other occupations. There are many things we do in our day that do not require our full attention - some things which are largely done on automatic pilot - like driving a car or peeling the potatoes. While we give these our attention, part of our mind is still at work mulling on other things and unless it is given something positive to feed on, we easily feed on negative thoughts. Personally I find mulling time the most likely time for God to get through to me. Because I am not so conscious of myself, God gets through the cracks and opens my heart to look at life differently.
Two practical times for mulling can be when exercising and when driving. Some small preparations for integrating such prayer into these exercises can be helpful.

Exercising
As you do your preparatory stretches, pray the line of the Psalm "I praise you God for I am wonderfully made!"
Similarly when doing your concluding stretches use the prayer of St Clare "Praised be you, my God, for creating me!"

Driving
Have some music that you find helps you turn you mind and heart to God and play that for the first 10 minutes or so of your trip.

This Sunday's Mulling Meditation

We each have been gifted in so many different ways.  As you go through this week, mull on the gifts you have been given – be opened to being surprised by what God has given to you.  Listen to the comments and compliments that you receive and see how they reflect your gifts.  As you recognise these gifts, see how you can give them on.

Mirror Meditation

In the Letter of James, we are told that the Scriptures are like a mirror in which we can see ourselves. In this type of meditation we take a piece of Scripture, hold it before us and consider what echoes within our heart. These echoes help us to see who we are before God and how we are loved. What usually echoes in us are situations that we are dealing with in our lives. When something strikes us, we do not actively try to solve the situation or work it through. Rather we sit holding it in God's love. The point of such a meditation is to make space within the situation for God's love to be. In 'sitting with' such a situation, painful or sad, we come to recognise the love of God that is at work on our lives. The suggestions for Mirror reflections can also be used for Exercise reflections but wouldn't be advised for Driving Prayer as often some degree of emotion or distraction might rise in such prayer.

This Sunday's Mirror Meditation

Rest in the love of your God.

As his ministry began and was successful, Jesus withdrew into a silent and solitary place to pray with his Father over the shape that his ministry should take. As you rest in God’s love consider the aspects of your life that appear to be successful, the things you believe you are doing right. Hold these out to God, consider what works within them. What are their strengths? After you have looked at them fully, ask God how you could improve them even more.

Rest in the love of your God.