One thing that grabs my attention in Sundays gospel Mk 1:29-39 is its opening statement “On leaving the synagogue.” Jesus begins his healings here not in that building, but after leaving. I think part of my interest in that is simply the comparison between the Temple of Jerusalem and these synagogues. For the temple, that is the bridge between heaven and earth. It is the place where God communicates to his people, it is Gods presence on earth. It also is a place that is highly regulated with the inner chambers accessible to fewer and fewer people. In contrast the synagogues were formed during a period of exile when people were forbidden passage to Jerusalem. The synagogues were then places where the people kept their faith alive in times of hardship, and they were places were people learned and grew in faith. They were the start of Rabbinic Judaism, and Rabbi means teacher. The book of Job, where the first reading Jb 7:1-4, 6-7 comes from, also deals with peoples faith in times of struggling. In that story Job leads a blessed life and is faithful to God. In the story God asks Satin why Job is faithful, and Satin says it is because Job has been blessed with a fruitful life. Satin poses the question What if Jobs life had been cursed with misfortune, would he continue to praise God? I see in that synagogue the Jewish peoples response, they continue to praise God in that synagogue, and that synagogue was formed out of hardship.
That synagogue, and Jesus departing from it, then also demonstrates something else. As much as the people were faithful to God, God did not abandon those people in their hardship. Their God was with them in that exile, as God is with us today. As Jesus walks out of that synagogue to enter into peoples lives, He walks with us on our journey. God is not contained in a building, or a place, or controlled by a people. God is ever present and almighty. In the healing of Simons mother in law, the language used says a lot. It says that Jesus went to her, or to rephrase God journeys with us and answers our pleas, prayers, and petitions. One of the parts of the Mass is specifically directed at offering those pleas, prayers, and petitions. Jesus then approaches her, grasps her hand, and helps her up. His actions are tactile and the language here is suggestive of Easter.His helping her up is described in the language of a resurrection. Miracle healings are equally hard to explain, yet very real and the Gospel is a testament to them. Jesus is as present in the Eucharist as He is in this room. His healing is a Miraculous and as powerful today as it was then. He is present here and now to heal us.
Jesus journey with His disciples does not end after this healing though, as after the healing He travels to a deserted place. In deserted places he prays. They are places of solitude, and they serve as an example. Saint Benedict went to a deserted place, first as a hermit and ten as an abbot. Saint Anthony of Egypt did the same. They are places of prayer away from the evils and distractions of the day. They can be symbolic of journeying back to the synagogue or church, and describe a reason for entering a church. He prayed, and was called again. In our prayers we call upon him, and He again journeys with us to heal us of our demons.
Jesus leaving the synagogue at once tell so much about a God that is present in our lives. It was a powerful message for ancient people who viewed a God that was distant and it is a powerful message today. How much easier life is with a God that walks with us. Jesus leaving the synagogue also tells of a God that is healing and loving and wishes the best from us. How different is that from the view of a God that inflicts pain and condemns us.This is a God of forgiveness. Finally Jesus leaving the synagogue, tells why we enter Church. It is to offer prayers, praise and petitions to a God that does not abandon us in our time of need. It serves as a reminder then not to abandon Christ in our dark hours, and that is not something that is always easy to remember. It is a reminder for us to again call out to our God, a loving and forgiving God that heals all wounds.