Peter's Mother In Law

January 2007. Wednesday of the First Week in Ordinary Time
Mark 1, 29-35

Yesterday’s Gospel tells us that people were amazed at Jesus’ teaching in the synagogue because he taught with power and authority. After His public appearance, Jesus’ friends brought him to Peter’s house. But upon arrival, Jesus responds to the needs of Peter’s mother-in-law.

The passage might be very simple, but when you meditate on it, and focus your attention to Jesus, you get a glimpse of who He is. Any public performance such as a one-hour variety show, a talk, a class, a seminar, or a mass needs energy. These events are exhausting. But Jesus could have demanded a break and rest, but He didn’t. Let’s see what we learn from Jesus.

First, Jesus still used his power, with or without a crowd. He was just as prepared to heal a large number of sick people as to cure a private person like Peter’s mother-in-law. The need of others took first priority over His desire to rest. How many of us have put our need before other people? Take for example our “take-home” practice during parties. I have witnessed a lot of people stuffing food in plastic or paper containers while the party queue is still on. Nagsisimula pa lang party, nagbabalot na siya. This tenet is good to remember: save the best for the last. Save the best chicken part for the last person.

Second, Jesus used his power in partnership with compassion. The Greek word for power used in the Gospel is exousia: unique knowledge together unique power. In diagnosing a person a doctor listens to his patience with interest, and when he gives the patient the prescription, he judges by understanding his patient’s condition --- done through interested listening and the knowledge he gained from studying. Jesus did not perform his miracles to gain popularity, but to help was his primary motivation. Let us reflect on our motivations: how many of us work when we are recognized: “Masama ang loob ko kasi hindi man lang pinapapansin o pinahahalagahan ang trabaho ko.” or “Ba’t ko gagawin iyan, hindi naman ako officer.”

We also learn something about the disciples of Jesus. They were indeed friends. The disciples have known Jesus for just a short time, but here they already have taken their personal troubles to him. It is intriguing to think of Peter as married, giving his home to his wife’s mother, and probably according to tradition, also was a father to his children. And here we see Peter telling Jesus about his personal life and struggles. The would-be leader of the Church had domestic problems.

Many of us are like Peter: in our service to God and country --- whether in teaching, public office, or even studying --- we are also bombarded by troubles at home. Last month, while presiding at mass and coordinating mall Christmas concerts, I was deeply troubled by my family’s condition in Bicol after the typhoon Reming. Or, many students have to continue preparing for exams while their parents fight. To whom do you talk about your troubles --- honestly and without edit? Do you talk about all your problems with all its gory details openly to Jesus? The Gospel tells us that after Jesus’ work, He goes up to the mountain to pray. It is not difficult to imagine that in this quiet time with His father, Jesus would tell Him everything indeed.

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