Mercy Above Every Misery

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Twenty-Second Wednesday of the Year I

Luke 4:38–44

Jesus in the House of Simon

Jesus has just left the synagogue of Capernaum. He was teaching the people on the Sabbath; the word of His mouth struck the ears of all by its indescribable authority. Joining to His word a wonderful action, He delivered a man from the unclean spirit who oppressed him. Today’s Gospel begins with Jesus leaving the synagogue and entering the house of Simon.

Simon's Mother-in-Law

It would have been normal, at this point, for Our Lord to want to take some refreshment and there, away from the crowd, to enjoy a moment of respite after the exertions of His ministry. But upon entering Simon’s house what does He find? Simon’s mother–in–law is ill with a high fever. Those in the house — Simon’s wife and Simon himself, no doubt — “besought Him for her” (Lk 4:38).

To Beseech the Lord

Here Saint Luke shows us the prayer of intercession in action. It is striking in its simplicity: “they besought Him for her” (Lk 4:38). This is the secret of an efficacious prayer of intercession: to beseech the Lord. No other verb conveys quite the same meaning: it means to beg eagerly, to importune another, to supplicate, to beg urgently.

And He Stood Over Her

The Heart of Jesus is touched by this prayer. Saint Luke describes what happened then. “And He stood over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her” (Lk 4:39). There is something divine, something majestic in the demeanour of Our Lord. He stands over the sick woman; He is Lord over all. His mercy is above every misery. Every infirmity is subject to Him; there is no illness, no brokenness, no affliction that can resist His word. He is the Physician of our bodies and of our souls.

Saint Jerome observes the scene and offers this commentary:

May Christ come to our house and enter in and by His command cure the fever of our sins. Each one of us is sick with a fever. Whenever I give way to anger, I have a fever. There are as many fevers as there are faults and vices. Let us beg the apostles to intercede for us with Jesus, that He may come to us and touch our hand. If He does so, at once our fever is gone. He is an excellent physician and truly the chief Physician. Moses is a physician. Isaiah is a physician. All the saints are physicians, but He is the chief Physician. (Homilies on the Gospel of Mark 75)

Two Hands

“He stood over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her; and immediately she rose and served them” (Lk 4:39). There is a thirteenth century mosaic in the cathedral of Palermo in Sicily that depicts this very moment. Simon’s mother–in–law is reclining on her bed, propped up on pillows. Jesus is extending His hand to her and she is extending her hand toward Him. That one detail of the mosaic expresses the whole mystery of the moment. At the very center of the mosaic there are two hands almost touching: His and hers. The Divine Physician stretches out His hand and, moved by grace, the sick woman offers her hand in response. A kind of resurrection takes place.

She Rose

“Immediately she rose and served them” (Lk 4:39). Her service is her thanksgiving. She leaves her bed and goes immediately to her kitchen. In her heart there is a strange joy. Her life and her house will never again be the same.

He Sets His Mercy Over All Our Sins

The chief Physician comes to visit us today. He comes escorted invisibly by His ministering angels and by the saints who, having compassion for our fevers, that is for our sins and vices, beseech Him for us. He stands over us; that is to say, He sets His mercy over all our sins. And in this Holy Mass, He offers us not only His hand, but the healing mysteries of His Body and Blood. May it be given us to rise and serve Him today.

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About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

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