Father Leslie Hoppe, OFM

Feb. 4: Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Ministry of healing

Jb 7:1-4, 6-7; Ps 147:1-2, 3-4, 5-6; 1 Cor 9:16-19, 22-23; Mk 1:29-39

The opening scene of today’s Gospel takes place in the house of Simon and Andrew. They lived in Capernaum, a town located along the northeastern shore of the Sea of Galilee. Jesus moved there from Nazareth, the village where he grew up.

Though there were only 30 miles between them, Nazareth and Capernaum were worlds apart. Nazareth was a village of about 300 people, most of whom were related by blood or marriage. Though it was just three miles away from Sepphoris, the capital of Galilee when Jesus was a child, the area was somewhat off the beaten track.

Herod Antipas decided to move his capital to Tiberias to be closer to an important commercial highway. Capernaum was just 10 miles north of Tiberias.

Capernaum was at least four times larger than Nazareth. Commercial fishing was the occupation of most of the townsmen. They sold their catch to processors in Magdala, where the fish were dried and salted for export. The Romans considered the salted fish from the Sea of Galilee a delicacy.

Capernaum was located along a branch of the road that connected Egypt and Syria. The town was also near the border of the territories ruled by Philip, one of Herod the Great’s sons.

All this made Capernaum the commercial center for the Sea of Galilee region. It was the ideal center for Jesus’ lakeside ministry. From Capernaum, Jesus was able to connect with many more people than would be the case from Nazareth.

Jesus began his day with the people of Capernaum who gathered for prayer and the reading of Torah on the Sabbath. He impressed the people with his preaching, and he healed one of the worshippers who was plagued by “an unclean spirit.”

Jesus showed himself to be mighty in word and deed. He was a captivating preacher and a compassionate healer.

Preaching and healing were connected in Jesus’ ministry. People were drawn to him because he spoke the word of God to them with conviction, authority and imagination. He could take everyday experiences and show how these shed light on people’s life with God. He called sinners to repent and challenged the just to greater righteousness. He called everyone to be ready for the coming of God’s reign since it was coming when they least expected.

After leaving the worshipping assembly, Jesus went to the house of Simon and Andrew. There he healed Simon’s mother-in-law.

After sunset, when the Sabbath restrictions were lifted, the townspeople brought their sick and troubled relatives to Jesus because they saw in him compassion that responded to everyone in need of healing. They witnessed his ability to end people’s suffering. This, of course, led to his popularity: “Everyone is looking for you.”

Despite his success, Jesus recognized the limitations of a ministry based solely on healings. Were people seeking him out just to have their needs met without any move toward repentance and faith? Jesus did assert that if the healings done in Capernaum were done in Sodom, the people of Sodom would have repented. Exasperated by Capernaum’s failure to respond, Jesus cursed the city (Mt 11:23).

The church is responsible for carrying on the preaching and healing ministry of Jesus. Through its ordained ministers, the church proclaims the Word of God in the context of the Eucharist.

At other times and in other settings, laypeople are serving the people of God by preaching and teaching as Jesus did. St. Francis and his first followers were lay folk who went from town to town preaching repentance by word and example.

Today religious women, religious brothers and lay women and men are doing what Jesus and his disciples did: proclaiming the Word of God and announcing the coming of God’s reign.

Christ’s healing ministry continues in the care of the sick in hospitals and clinics sponsored by various Christian churches. They serve all those in need of physical, psychological and spiritual healing.

The ministry of pastoral teams in these hospitals make an essential contribution to the healing process. The physicians, nurses and other caregivers, along with the laypeople, religious and priests of the pastoral teams work together to enable the sick to experience the loving, compassionate and healing touch of Christ in their lives.

Preaching and healing formed the core of Jesus’ ministry. They continue to be the core of the church’s ministry in and for the world today.




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