FIFTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME- YEAR B
Job 7:1-7 Psalm 147:1-6 1 Corinthians 9:16-23
In relation to the Gospel passage provided for today, a question arises: What am I doing here? This is the question you ask when you are called back to yourself. Think of a situation whereby you attempt to play the game of basketball yet you have no clue at all about its rules and it's stylish agile mode of play.
Since you do not know how to play it, won't you ask yourself: What am I doing here? Won't this be a moment of being reminded of who you are? That you are not a basketball player but there are other things that you can excel at , for example, cooking, teaching, singing, dancing, or even doing well in another sport.
What am I doing here? Maybe this is the question Simon's mother- in- law asked when she first realised she was healed. In last Sunday's Gospel passage, Jesus healed a demon possessed man in a synagogue on the Sabbath day and we were not told what the man did after the exorcism. After raising Lazarus from death, we are told that Jesus together with Lazarus and other guests sat down at a table while the sisters of Lazarus were busy up and down serving the visitors. Why is Simon's mother- in- law's first response to serve Jesus and his four disciples after being healed?
Why didn't Simon tell his mother- in- law to take it easy and rest while he did the serving? Here, we see that Simon's mother-in- law serves them but shouldn't her service be seen as a way of showing respect and gratitude to her healer?
Those days in that culture it would have been shameful for a woman in a household to neglect a guest. To feed Jesus would have honoured him, but it would also have restored the woman's own honour and dignity. Healed, she could do what her society expected her to do and what her fever prevented her from doing.
The healing of Simon's mother- in-law is a classic healing story which is fine and good but is her appropriate response to serve? Is that the only thing she could do? Wouldn't true healing and liberation allow her to take on other roles?
Is more possible from this woman and from you? Is more possible for her and for you? A fertile imagination will help us not castigate ancient gender roles but will help us answer the question : what am I doing here by opening up new horizons of opportunity and agency for Simon's mother in-law and for us all when we realise we have been brought back to ourselves. In life and in faith, we have possibilities of doing more than what we normally do or is expected of us. For example, in Mark 14, we learn about a group of women who watched the crucifixion of Jesus from a distance while all the rest of Jesus' followers had fled at his arrest and Simon was last seen weeping in a courtyard.
And after this, they still provided for Jesus when he was in Galilee. If Simon's mother- in-law is among them, then she is more than a cook; she is also a follower at Jesus' most critical moment, and if she is a follower willing to serve, then she is a disciple.
If the First Reading from the Book of Job talks of a slave who longs for the shadow, and a hireling who looks for his wages, then you have a moment to ask yourself if you have ever felt like God has brought you back from the brink to yourself? That you were called back from a place that was not fully you, to be you?
The story of Simon's mother- in-law tells us that God does not call us to be something we are not like being in a basketball court where you cannot play the game but is in the business of restoring us to who we really are.
It is true that Simon's mother- in-law has been freed from fever, and you can be freed from things that prevent you from performing your parental or spousal duties or anything else that you have been doing but God not only frees us from things that oppress us but also frees us for a purpose in this present moment.
This purpose is seen in Paul's life in the Second Reading. He says he is free but he has made himself a slave to all that he might win the more. Can't you see here that if Paul was freed from persecuting Christians it shows he was freed for something more purposeful? What about you?