Mark 1:29-39
Do I Share Jesus' Zeal?
by Rev. Jack Peterson

Reprinted with permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"

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Mark wrote to explain Christ
to the new Gentile converts.

On leaving the synagogue Jesus entered the house of Simon and Andrew with James and John.  Simon's mother-in-law lay sick with a fever.  They immediately told him about her.  He approached, grasped her hand and helped her up.  Then the fever left her and she waited on them.

When it was evening, after sunset, they brought to him all who were ill or possessed by demons.  The whole town was gathered at the door.  He cured many who were sick with various diseases, and he drove out many demons, not permitting them to speak because they knew him.

Rising very early before dawn, he left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed.  Simon and those who were with him pursued him and on finding him said, "Everyone is looking for you."  He told them, "Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also.  For this purpose have I come."  So he went into their synagogues, preaching and driving out demons throughout the whole of Galilee.

Blessed John Paul II boldly encouraged the faithful to add the luminous mysteries to their recitation of the rosary.  This inspired move provides the opportunity to spend time meditating upon several key events and mysteries in the public life of Christ like the Wedding at Cana and the Institution of the Eucharist.  The third luminous mystery invites us to ponder the radical commitment of Jesus to proclaim the Gospel.

Perhaps Blessed John Paul II had this Sunday's Gospel from Mark in mind when he was pondering what mysteries to include among the luminous ones.  I continue to be surprised by Jesus' response to Simon Peter, even after years of praying with this passage, Jesus is in Peter's home town of Capernaum.  In one day, Jesus preaches in the synagogue, heals Simon's mother-in-law and cures many who were ill or possessed by demons.

The next day, Our Lord gets up early and goes to pray in a deserted place.  Simon searches for Jesus, finds Him and tells Him: "Everyone is looking for you."  There were more people to heal and more truths to share with Peter's hometown.  It would have made plenty of sense to continue for a few days in Capernaum, serving the sick, building relationships and laying the foundation for the Church.  Yet Jesus responds, "Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also.  For this purpose have I come."

Jesus made the decision to leave the town where His ministry was quite effective in order to preach to others in the nearby villages.  Our Lord wanted the good news spread far and wide.  He was clearly on a mission to proclaim and build the kingdom of God.  There was an urgency and a zeal that marked His time on this earth.

St. Paul, whose powerful conversion we celebrated January 25th, shared in the tremendous missionary zeal of Jesus.  Paul traveled great distances, risking his life and suffering greatly to bring the good news to God's children in distant lands.  Paul lived with a similar sense of urgency and passion for sharing the gift of his new life in Christ with the whole world.

In fact, Paul was so compelled to evangelize to the world that he used the language of slavery to describe what drove him. "Although I am free in regard to all, I have made myself a slave to all so as to win over as many as possible."  His encounter with Christ on the road to Damascus was so life-changing and overwhelming that he dedicated the rest of his life to sharing with others the precious gift of knowing Jesus Christ, Savior of the World.

Paul goes on to say: "To the weak I became weak, to win over the weak.  I have become all things to all, to save at least some.  All this I do for the sake of the gospel, so that I too may have a share in it."

The Church exists in order to continue this mission of spreading the good news to every corner of the world.  Jesus handed on His mission to the Church and her leaders: "Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.  And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age." (Mt 28:18-20)

Every baptized Christian shares in this mission that defines the Church.  Surely, we participate in different ways according to our state in life, our gifts and talents, and our specific life circumstances.  However, we all share in this mission.

Do I recognize how precious the Father's gift of His Son is to me and to the world?  Am I nurturing the great gift of my faith in Jesus Christ through personal and communal prayer, participation in the sacraments, building community with fellow Christians, good spiritual reading, and service of those in need?  Do I share the passion of Jesus and St. Paul to bring the good news to those who do not know what it is to be loved, forgiven, called and given new life by Jesus Christ, the Son of God?

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