Magazine article U.S. Catholic

Open the Door

Magazine article U.S. Catholic

Open the Door

Article excerpt

"Thatevening after sunsetthey brought to him all who were ill and possessed by devils, and the whole town was there, gathered at the door" (Mark 1:32-33). There are accounts also in the gospels of Matthew and Luke of the occasion when Jesus, returning to Simon's house after the Sabbath worship in the synagogue, healed Simon's wife's mother and later healed many sick and afflicted people. Only Mark's gospel mentions the word door, yet for me that one word has become a symbol of the moment of decision that shaped the life of Jesus from then on. And it is symbolic for me of such moments in my life and in many lives when we are confronted with a decision that will shape our futures.

On that Sabbath day, Jesus and some of his new followers had attended the synagogue as usual, and Jesus been asked to expound from scripture. Already he had become known as one who had a message that lifted the hearts of people suffering under oppression both by the Roman rulers and by the powerful of their own people. But preaching was interrupted by the sudden scream of a man who, Mark says, "had an unclean spirit."

"I know who you are, the holy one of God!" But "you are come to destroy us," he cried. His response was one that was to become familiar--an immediate compassion that did not stop to consider possible results. He healed the man.

We are so accustomed to thinking of Jesus as a healer that we don't reflect on the fact that for most of his life he did not heal. In other words, there had to be a moment when he healed for the first time, and it seems that this incident in the synagogue was that moment. In that moment Jesus unleashed a power that not only others but he himself had not fully known. And even then he did not realize the full implications but quickly left the synagogue.

On this Sabbath as, no doubt, on many others, Jesus went with Simon and his family for the Sabbath meal at Simon's house, which was just up the street.

Even if there was a buzz of excitement outside the synagogue as they left, the Sabbath quiet restrained anything more than talk and looks. We can imagine, too, the silence that had fallen upon the group during the short walk.

But by the time they reached the house, Simon at least had had time to make some connections. His wife had stayed at home to care for her sick mother and quickly, while the others gathered in the main room of his house, Simon told her what had happened. And without hesitation they came to Jesus and told him about the fever and how much the older woman was suffering. Immediately and naturally he went with them into the sleeping room, greeted the woman with the ease of old friendship, and then took her hand and gently drew her to her feet. She knew she was healed, so she did the only thing she could do to express her wonder and gratitude--she went about the small duties and served the Sabbath meal.

They watched her, received the food from her, and wondered. Perhaps some wept at the strangeness and the joy, and some pondered in silence; but as they ate and then sat quietly together, it began to be possible to talk about what had happened. Perhaps Jesus was able to share the awareness of how the mission to proclaim the good news of liberation from bondage promised by the prophets must include also liberation from the bondage of sickness and sin.

During the remainder of that Sabbath day, in the privacy and safety of that home, there was time for the awe and strangeness to grow less and for the sense of excitement and commitment to grow more. Those must have been wonderful hours of intimacy, which would be rare in the time to come, though they did not yet know this.

But the hours passed, the sun dipped toward the horizon, the prayers to end the holy day were said. And as the prayers ended, there came to the ears of those in the house strange sounds outside the door--sounds of feet coming closer, of voices at first subdued but growing louder and more excited, dragging sounds, then cries and moans, and loud voices of encouragement. …

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