Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
31 Jan 2024

Reading I: Isaiah 40:21-31
Psalm: 147:1-12, 21
Reading II: 1 Corinthians 9:16-23
Gospel: Mark 1:29-39


We are a people in a hurry. Do you keep your phone nearby even when you go to bed? Are you always available if someone needs you? Recently I came across something called a culture of urgency. A culture of urgency is the idea that people are always free and available to respond to any and all requests. Does that sound like your life? It sounds a lot like mine.  The readings appointed for this Sunday have an urgency about them too. From the emphatic questions in the Isaiah passage to Paul’s urgent opening statement in 1 Corinthians about his obligation to preach the gospel, reading the lessons appointed for the day could leave you breathless.

The Gospel lesson from Mark is no less urgent. In these eleven verses we go from synagogue to house, to a deserted place, to neighboring towns around Galilee. This is a whirlwind tour!  We aren’t even out of the first three verses when we meet the first woman mentioned in Mark’s Gospel, although we only know her as Simon’s mother-in-law. This woman stands out to us for two reasons. First, for being the only person in Mark’s Gospel who is healed by Jesus and then does something for him, by serving him. Second, Mark uses the Greek word for service- diakonein– which means to wait tables. But this was charged language and meant more than waiting tables. Mark used the same word earlier in Chapter 1 to describe the way the angels ministered to Jesus after his forty days in the wilderness.

The urgency continues even as Simon’s mother-in-law serves Jesus and the disciples while the sick and demon possessed line up at the door waiting for Jesus to cure them. There is a deep humanity in this gospel reading. We see Jesus in the thick of the day-to-day motions of living in a specific time with specific people who were drawn to him because a word or a touch from Jesus had the power to release them from the forces of chaos and to heal them. But amid all the urgency and rush, Jesus does something unexpected, he goes out to pray in a deserted place. While the whole world was at Simon’s door, Jesus shuts down for a while. But soon enough Simon and his friends find Jesus and get back to their travels, to preach the good news and cast out demons in Galilee.

Among the crush of so many people in need of healing, Jesus comes to teach us how to live in this passage from Mark’s Gospel. Even though we are very early in the book of Mark, this is a text we can claim for ourselves. Like Jesus, we may need to take time from the hurry and urgency of our everyday lives to shut down and to pull away to refocus on what God is calling us to do or be. Everyday life is overflowing with what we could and should do. Many of us are pressed on all sides by someone or something demanding our time and energy. So was Jesus, and it is vital that we, like him, find a deserted time to focus on our main task in life of answering God’s call.



Kris Veldheer

Director of the Bechtold Library