You’re probably not unsure of what I’ll be doing at 6pm tonight. I’m Giants fan and I watched our season slip away in horror, and I’ll never become a card-carrying Eagles fan, but if you can’t get behind Chris Long and Carson Wentz and company, you need to get your pulse checked. We saw a meme on Facebook this week that featured a Methodist church sign; the gist of it was that the Bible mentioned “eagles” 33 times and ‘patriots’ 0 times, and so at 6pm tonight I’ll sit down with a bag of chips and my Lipton Onion Dip and say a little prayer for the team featured in the Bible itself.
But it’s not 6pm yet, and there’s no better place to be than right here. Jesus is in this place, and so here there is found grace and joy and healing. St. Mark, he was a master of setting a place in his narrative, of making sure we knew when and where things were happening.
In today’s story, Mark tells us that we are in Capernaum at the Peter’s home. Lot’s of stuff happened in Capernaum, despite it not being a particularly important place. Capernaum was a fishing village of about 1500 people, but it’s also the place where Jesus healed the servant of a Centurion who sought Jesus’ help, and the place where the friends of a paralyzed man lowered him through a roof so that Jesus might heal him.
Today we’re in Peter’s home in Capernaum, which was fairly impressive, all things considered – he must have done pretty well for himself. You know those houses that have a mother-in-law suite? Remember when that was a big deal in real estate? Well, Peter had a mother-in-law suite, which was fancy-shmancy back in the day.
As it turns out, Peter’s mother-in-law was sick. We don’t know what kind of illness she had, we don’t even know here name, but we know she was not at all well. While she must have known that her son-in-law Peter had ditched the family business to follow an itinerant preacher around, because of her illness she also managed to miss last week’s episode of that same preacher casting out a demon at her local synagogue. Now, it would take a very nice mother-in-law to accept her son-in-law giving up the family’s only means of support, and so we would have to forgive her if she wasn’t real pleased by the whole thing. And then here she is, sick as a dog, and her son-in-law brings Him home with him along with all their new friends, and this is a set up for a disaster.
But then Jesus, that itinerant preacher, not with a word but a gesture—“he grasped her hand, and helped her up”—Jesus restores the good woman. Her response to the healing: she begins to serve them, presumably fixing a meal for the four of them. It is another of Mark’s cameos of Christian life: a person in trouble is rescued through encounter with the Lord and proceeds to serve others. The single word Mark uses to describe her action, diekonei (“she waited on them”), resonates with the primary Church word for service, diakonia.” She shows a simple act of hospitality.
You may have noticed that the word diakonia sounds an awful lot like the word deacon, one of the ordained orders of our church. Our own Vasu is discerning a call to the diaconate, a call to be one who serves, to be one who makes sure that the practical needs of the Kingdom of God are met. I am sure that we will support her even as she supports the ministries of our church.
I think, though, that all of us are in some way called to be like Peter’s mother-in-law. Think about it: she was healed, made whole; she had an encounter with Jesus and was completely changed, and her response was to get up and serve Christ and serve others.
I can’t think of a better example for us! We have all had an encounter with Jesus, and our response is first to come here and praise Him for all He has done for us, and second to do as Peter’s mother-in-law, to serve Him and serve others in His Name.
Just as St. Mark set this story in a time and a place, our stories have converged in this time and this place. What has Jesus healed in you lately, and what are you doing to serve Him?
 Dennis Hamm, SJ: http://liturgy.slu.edu/5OrdB020418/theword_hamm.html